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Small But Growing List of US States Opt to Accept Refugees

FILE - Residents in support of continued refugee resettlement hold signs at a meeting in Bismarck, N.D., Dec. 9. 2019.

The State Department has made public a list of U.S. states that have agreed to accept refugees for resettlement, after the Trump administration altered decades of U.S. policy and compelled states to opt in to the program.

The nine states to date are Arizona, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

Additionally, six counties and cities submitted letters of consent to the federal government, according to a website that went live Thursday.

The initial list posted was not complete. It omitted several states that pledged to accept refugees — such as Kansas, which agreed to participate in the program last week — and two that made their announcements this week, Connecticut and Minnesota.

Before President Donald Trump's executive order, issued in September, refugees had long been placed in U.S. communities based on consultations between federal, state and local officials, as well as nonprofit agencies that assist with refugee resettlement.

The executive order allows state and local governments to refuse to accept refugees if they decline to send letters of consent to the State Department.

Refugees typically benefit from a support system in assigned resettlement cities that can serve as an initial inducement to stay. Once they arrive in the U.S., however, they are free to move wherever they choose, including to a state that has not consented to accept refugees. Hypothetically, if a refugee family would rather be in Florida instead of their assigned destination in Arizona, the state cannot object to the family's moving there, but the family may forgo services that would have been provided to them in Arizona.

The executive order will apply to resettlement activities beginning June 1, 2020.