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Gov. Little signs off on Idaho counties’ move to continue accepting refugees


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Idaho will continue accepting refugees under the requirements of a new executive order from the White House, after Idaho Gov. Brad Little sent two letters supporting Ada and Twin Falls counties’ request for refugee resettlement, the Idaho Statesman reports.

“I support the decision of county government on this matter,” Little wrote in a Dec. 23 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “As the Governor of Idaho, I consent to the requirements set forth in Executive Order 13888 for Ada County, Idaho.”

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued an executive order allowing states and localities to chose whether to continue accepting refugees for resettlement. At the same time, the president slashed 2020 refugee admissions to a historic low of 18,000.

Twin Falls and Boise will continue longstanding refugee resettlement programs after officials in their counties provided official consent this month, according to a report Monday in the Twin Falls Times-News newspaper.

Ada County unanimously supported refugee resettlement in its own letter to Pompeo, Commissioner Diana Lachiondo told the Statesman on Tuesday. She said it couldn’t have been a “more uncontroversial” decision.

“On the one hand, this is a non-issue,” Lachiondo said. “On the other hand, it’s really important to me personally that we continue to be a welcoming community.”

The Twin Falls City Council also unanimously approved support for the program, the Times-News reported.

Little joined more than 30 other governors who have approved refugee resettlement in consenting cities and counties. The deadline to respond under the new executive order is Jan. 21. Little sent letters to Pompeo supporting the two Idaho counties’ decisions on Dec. 23 and Dec. 30, according to spokeswoman Marissa Morrison.

Only 30,000 refugees were allowed to enter the United States in fiscal year 2019. The previous year, the U.S. admitted only 22,000, half of the 45,000 promised.

Idaho resettled just 558 refugees in 2019, compared to 1,110 in 2016 — the last year of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Tara Wolfson, executive director of the Idaho Office for Refugees, said she was “heartened” to see Twin Falls County, Ada County and Little supporting Idaho’s 45-year-old resettlement program.

“Fundamentally, (refugee) resettlement is indicative of exactly what is right and good about our country,” Wolfson told the Statesman in a text Tuesday. “We are glad that Idaho continues to be part of this legacy.”

The executive order’s guidance for whether cities or counties have the authority to opt in or out of refugee resettlement was unclear, but Boise officials previously expressed emphatic support for welcoming refugees.

The Twin Falls Times-News first reported Little’s letters of support.

“For decades, our state has stepped up and served as a new home to refugees,” said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, executive director for the International Rescue Committee in Boise. “In turn, our new community members have enriched our state economically, socially and culturally. We look forward to continuing this tradition of welcome in the new year.”