By Adam Federman, VTDigger
A ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a Seattle judge’s decision reversing nearly all of the provisions of the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration means that refugee resettlement will continue in Vermont.
However, the program is still operating under a cloud of uncertainty and it remains unclear if any additional Syrian refugee families will be resettled in Rutland.
The ruling, issued Thursday, denied the administration’s request to temporarily reinstate the ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries as the case makes its way through the courts.
The government argued that an emergency stay on the ban should be instituted because of national security risks and also stated that the court had no standing to review the executive order in the first place. The three-member panel rejected both of those arguments.
The executive order had also suspended the refugee resettlement program for 120 days and indefinitely blocked Syrian refugees from entering the country.
Before Trump assumed office, Vermont was expecting to resettle about 450 refugees in the current fiscal year, including about 25 Syrian families bound for Rutland. The first two Syrian families arrived in Rutland the week before the executive order was signed but, even with the recent court rulings, it is unclear if any more will follow.
“I would say there is still a lot of uncertainty,” said Stacie Blake, director of government and community Relations with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
Matt Thompson, program coordinator with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, said they were expecting 13 Bhutanese refugees to arrive in Vermont today and roughly the same number next week. According to aid agencies, the process of rebooking flights for refugees scheduled to arrive before the ban went into effect has been complex and time consuming.
Asked if any Syrian families were on their way to Rutland, Thompson said, “We’re hopeful. But we don’t have any information either way.”
According to the Worldwide Admissions Processing website, which incorporates data provided by the State Department, 359 Syrian refugees arrived in the country this week. Fifty-one were resettled in New York state, eight in Connecticut, and six in Massachusetts, according to the website.
A provision of the executive order not affected by the court’s decision is the overall reduction in the number of refugees who will be admitted into the country through September. Under the Obama administration that number was set at 110,000; Trump has said he will cut that down to 50,000 and, according to the latest figures, the U.S. has already admitted close to 35,000 refugees for the current federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
Thompson said the uncertainty over the executive order has been especially troubling for refugee families here in the country awaiting the arrival of relatives from overseas.
“But we just have to keep doing what we do everyday,” he said. “Trying to serve our clients the best we can and have the best possible outcomes for clients and the community.”
Since the executive order was signed, Gov. Phil Scott has sharply criticized the travel ban and earlier this week introduced legislation that would prohibit state law enforcement from participating in the creation of federal registries based on national origin or immigration status among other categories. Vermont was one of 15 states and the District of Columbia that supported the lawsuit brought by Washington state and Minnesota against the Trump administration’s executive order.
The 9th Circuit Court’s three-judge panel voted unanimously to uphold the Federal District Court decision reversing the ban and argued that the government had failed to demonstrate that a “stay is necessary to avoid irreparable injury.” According to the decision, “The government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.”
James Lyall, executive director of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the court had demolished the administration’s argument that not reinstating the ban posed a threat to national security.
The ACLU filed an amicus brief supporting the lawsuit and is involved in a number of other court cases challenging the executive order.
Though Trump immediately took to Twitter after the ruling was issued and suggested that the government would appeal the decision—“SEE YOU IN COURT,” he wrote, “THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”—it is unclear what the administration’s next step will be. At a press conference with Japanese Prime minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, Trump said additional measures addressing national security would be announced next week.
“We will continue to go through the court process,” he added, “and ultimately I have no doubt that we’ll win that particular case.”