With a provisional deadline looming, around 80% of U.S. states have agreed to continue accepting newly arrived refugees since the Trump administration made resettlement participation optional.
To date, the State Department says the governors of 37 of America's 50 states submitted letters of consent, and another three — Alaska, Kentucky and Vermont — indicated they had their sent letters to Washington.
The letters comply with a Trump administration mandate issued in September 2019 that in order to receive refugees, states and localities must opt in to the resettlement program.
While there is no official letter of consent from New York, refugee advocates say they expect the state's pro-refugee governor, Andrew Cuomo, will agree to continue taking in newcomers.
The activity precedes a January 21 deadline for refugee aid agencies to request resettlement funding from the State Department.
States that have yet to indicate whether they intend to opt in include Texas, one of the nation's biggest recipients of refugees in recent years. Also among the holdouts is Georgia, home to Clarkston, one of the most diverse, refugee-welcoming small cities in the country.
The consent letters have come from Republican and Democratic governors, in a rare moment of bipartisanship on an immigration-related issue.
Until President Donald Trump's executive order, the U.S. government placed newly arrived refugees in certain communities based on regular discussion among resettlement nonprofit groups and state and local officials. Requiring cities and states to opt in to the resettlement program gives them de facto veto power over the placement of refugees in their jurisdictions beginning June 1.
Although the deadline for funding applications is fast approaching, a State Department spokesperson said consent letters would still be valid if received after the cutoff date.
Regardless of whether a state agrees to resettlement of new arrivals to America, governors cannot block refugees from moving to their states. Once legally admitted to the country, refugees are free to move wherever they choose.
The resettlement locations provide services to help people navigate the first months and years of life in their new home country, but there is no obligation for refugees to remain in the place where they are first resettled.