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Federal judge blocks Trump policy allowing states to deny refugee resettlement

This judge has come up against President Trump before

Pete Marovich/Getty Images

A federal judge has placed a temporary block on enforcing an executive order from President Donald Trump that allows state and local governments to opt out of the federal refugee resettlement program.

In his Wednesday court order U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte — a Clinton appointee — wrote that "a potentially insuperable Constitutional barrier looms" on the order. By which he means that the "power to include or excluded non-citizens is 'exclusively' federal in nature" and "Making the resettlement of refugees wholly contingent upon the consents of the State or Local Government ... thus raises four-square the very serious matter of federal pre-emption under the Constitution."

The complaint in this case was brought by refugee resettlement agencies HIAS Inc, Church World Service Inc. and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service back in November.

"This injunction provides critical relief," said LIRS President and CEO Krish O'Mara Vignarajah in a statement issued on Wednesday. "Those who have been waiting for years to reunite with their families and friends will no longer have to choose between their loved ones and the resettlement services that are so critical in their first months as new Americans."

The executive order in question, which the White House announced in September says that "with limited exceptions, the Federal Government, as an exercise of its broad discretion concerning refugee placement accorded to it by the Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act, should resettle refugees only in those jurisdictions in which both the State and local governments have consented to receive refugees under the Department of State's Reception and Placement Program."

At a rally in Minnesota in October, Trump touted the executive order, telling voters "You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and for your own neighborhoods, and that's what you have the right to do right now."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made the Lone Star State the first to opt out of the program on Friday, bucking a trend by several other GOP governors who have thus far opted in.

"In addition to accepting refugees all these years, Texas has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system," Abbot explained of his decision in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

This is not the first time that Messitte has ruled on a case involving against President Trump. He was scolded back in July by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals over his handling of a case dealing with Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., and the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution, which the higher court threw out. The higher court found that Messitte's actions "amounted to a clear abuse of discretion" and that some of his reasoning in the matter "blinks reality."

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