“Maryland consents to receive legally vetted resettlement refugees in Fiscal Year 2020,” Hogan wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a letter dated Dec. 30. “This, as you know, is different from any kind of ‘sanctuary’ status for those in the United States unlawfully.”
“Maryland’s approach is consistent with both our laws and our values,” he added.
President Trump announced last year that both state and local leaders need to provide written consent by Jan. 21 to continue welcoming refugees into their localities — an unprecedented move that advocates worried could cripple the country’s decades-old resettlement program.
At the turn of the decade, about 34 governors, including at least 15 Republicans, had provided their consent in writing. In Maryland, which has accepted 10,000 refugees since 2016, resettlement agency leaders say they were waiting anxiously to hear from Hogan.
“We’re thrilled — just thrilled,” Ruben Chandrasekar, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Maryland, said in an interview Thursday. “The biggest boost to our confidence has been the governor saying yes.”
In 2015, Hogan was among a group of GOP governors that called on the federal government to stop the arrival of Syrian refugees in their states. He also has been a vocal critic of Maryland jurisdictions that have prohibited local law enforcement from working with federal agencies on immigration enforcement, calling such policies “absurd.”
Now, however, Hogan’s letter of consent has cleared the way for refugee resettlement agencies to continue their work in the state’s two large metropolitan areas, Chandrasekar said. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D) and Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) have both issued letters of consent. Leaders in Prince George’s County and Baltimore County are in the process of doing the same.
Resettlement agencies are relieved, Chandrasekar said, though they are aware that the total number of refugees in Maryland is likely to drop significantly in the coming months.
In September, Trump slashed the annual refugee ceiling to 18,000 — the lowest in U.S. history and less than a quarter of what the country admitted in President Barack Obama’s final year in office.
According to Chandrasekar, the decision could have significant impacts on Maryland jurisdictions such as Baltimore City and Prince George’s, which have relied on refugees, asylum seekers and other immigrants to buttress their tax base and boost their economy.
“For years, Baltimore City has welcomed refugees fleeing violence and persecution,” Young said in a Dec. 20 statement. “Our neighborhoods cannot afford to lose the contributions refugees provide.”
As of Thursday, no state or local jurisdiction had explicitly announced a decision to reject refugees. A North Dakota county commission that was poised to become the first to do so voted 3-to-2 to continue accepting refugees up to a cap of 25.