Growing Number of Republican-Led States Say They Will Accept Refugees

A sign hangs outside Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta welcoming immigrants and refugees. Atlanta will continue to resettle refugees in 2020.

A sign hangs outside Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta welcoming immigrants and refugees. Atlanta will continue to resettle refugees in 2020. AP Photo/Andrea Smith


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Watchdog group sues San Diego over smart street lights … Washington legislators subject to public record requests .... Washington attorney general sues to stop courthouse ICE arrests.

An executive order signed by President Trump in September requires states and localities to indicate in writing if they want to accept refugees in 2020. The deadline to tell the federal government is December 25, and so far over 20 states and 10 cities or counties have written to the State Department to approve refugee resettlement within their boundaries. While most states that have approved a continued flow of refugees are led by Democratic governors, a growing number of states led by Republicans have also signaled their support, including Tennessee, Arizona, Iowa, and North Dakota. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert was one of the first Republicans to signal support for continued refugee resettlement, and even asked the President to send more immigrants looking for a new home to help the state fill a large number of vacant jobs. “Those refugees who resettle in Utah become integrated and accepted into our communities. They become productive employees and responsible citizens … I also recognize that there is a logical limit to how many refugees can be successfully integrated into a state or nation in a given period of time. However, in Utah we are far from reaching that limit,” Herbert said. Other Republicans, including state Rep. Brad Wilson, the speaker of the House, said that he fully supported the governor. “I have to be honest, I don’t have any idea why it’s a partisan issue nationally. It’s never been one here. Regardless of political party, we value these people,” he said. Not all Republican governors have seen the same level of support from legislators. After Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced that his state would continue to resettle refugees, he drew criticism from top state Republicans, including House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. "Our personal preference would have been to exercise the option to hit the pause button on accepting additional refugees in our state. However, the federal order makes this the sole decision of the Governor, and he has made his call,” they said in a joint statement. [Tennessean; Washington Post]

SMART STREETLIGHTS | A government watchdog group is suing the city of San Diego for not releasing the data collected through its smart streetlights, which have sensors and video cameras. San Diegans for Open Government alleged that the city failed to disclose information from the program after the group filed public records requests for the source data that the sensors on light poles collected. The group is represented by Cory Briggs, a candidate for city attorney who has been highly critical of the program’s potential for data mining. “City officials cannot deny the existence of the data when there are nearly 4,000 surveillance devices all across the city that are operating around the clock. If the sale of our data were lawful, the city would not be hiding it from the public,” he said. General Electric, which owns the cameras, said that they were not selling or sharing the data with anyone outside the city.  [San Diego Union Tribune; NBC San Diego]

PUBLIC RECORDS | The Washington Supreme Court ruled that individual legislators must release records requested under the state’s Public Records law. The case in question stems from public records requests by media organizations filed in 2017 with all 147 legislators and state House and Senate leadership. The requests sought calendars, schedules of meetings and misconduct investigations, but were largely rebuffed. The 7-2 court decision last week rejected legislative leaders’ assertion that individual lawmakers were not subject to the state’s public records law that applies to government agencies. Justice Susan Owens, writing for the majority, said the legislature would have to take action by passing laws or some other means to exempt themselves, which they haven’t done. “The exemption of any government entity from the PRA’s general public records disclosure mandate constitutes a major political action. Individual legislators’ offices are obliged to disclose upon request all public records not otherwise exempted from public inspection,” Owens wrote. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said that the legislative bodies will need time to enact a system for processing requests. “At this point, we’re looking at fully complying with the law,” he said. [Spokesman Review; Seattle Times]

ICE ARRESTS | The Washington attorney general has filed a lawsuit against Immigration & Customs Enforcement with the intent of stopping the federal agency from making arrests of undocumented immigrants in courthouses. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said that arrests have been made in the state while immigrants were doing things like paying parking tickets and obtaining restraining orders against people who had abused them. "The bottom line is individuals have a constitutional right to access courthouses. When people do not feel safe in accessing a courthouse, we as a community are all less safe as a result. Immigration policy is a difficult issue. It's unfortunate we have to file a lawsuit. But it's fairly simple—just don't do it at courthouses,” Ferguson said. Tanya Roman, an ICE spokesperson said that courthouse arrests are permissible. “It is ironic that elected officials want to see policies in place to keep ICE out of courthouses, while caring little for laws enacted by Congress to keep criminal aliens out of our country,” Roman said. [Seattle Times; KUOW]

NET NEUTRALITY | New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he would make a state net neutrality law a priority in his 2020 legislative agenda, potentially making the state one of the few to enact their own after the Federal Communications Commission repealed Obama-era net neutrality provisions two years ago. Net neutrality laws are meant to ensure that broadband companies can’t slow down or block access to certain content on the internet in order to favor content from their own services or affiliates. "A free and open internet is one of the great equalizers—allowing every person the same access to information and helping protect freedom of speech," Cuomo said. Cuomo already issued an executive order in 2017 barring state agencies from contracting with internet service providers that don’t practice net neutrality, but the law would go further by requiring a net neutrality certification for all internet service providers in the state. Several states, including California, Vermont and Maine, have already enacted net neutrality legislation. [Crain’s New York Business; CNET]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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