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Cheers as Federal Judge Blocks Trump Order Allowing Localities to Refuse New Refugees

"This is an important first step, but this fight is far from over."

A group gathered at Wooldridge Park in Austin, Texas to protest Governor Greg Abbott's decision not to allow Syrian refugees into the state.

A group gathered at Wooldridge Park in Austin, Texas to protest Governor Greg Abbott's decision not to allow Syrian refugees into the state. The Syrian People Solidarity Group organized the protest which included several hundred people (Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a Trump administration order giving states and localities the power to refuse to resettle refugees.

"This injunction provides critical relief," said Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). LIRS is one of three faith-based resettlement agencies that had sued to block the September order. "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," Vignarajah said. 

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte issued a temporary injunction (pdf) and wrote that President Donald Trump's order flies "in the face of clear statutory text and structure, purpose Congressional intent, executive practice, judicial holdings, and Congressional doctrine."

The block comes just days after Texas's Republican Gov. Greg Abbott drew outrage from human rights advocates by announcing his state would take advantage of Trump's order by refusing to accept the resettlement of new refugees.

Lawyer and U.S. immigration policy expert Sarah Pierce, in a tweet, said that the Messitte's order "essentially nullifies" Abbott's decision.

Immigrant rights group RAICES welcomed the temporarily block and its effect on refugees in Texas.

The ruling was also welcomed by the International Rescue Committee.

"The ruling recognizes that this harmful and unnecessary administration policy would have further burdened refugees granted the opportunity to rebuild their lives in the United States, and contribute positively to our communities," said Jennifer Sime, the organization's senior vice president of resettlement and asylum. "It further recognizes that the government did not have legal grounds to delegate resettlement decisions to states, and to cities."

LIRS's Vignarajah stressed that, given the Trump administration's sustained attacks on refugees and immigrants, more work lies ahead.

"This is an important first step, but this fight is far from over," she said. "We do not expect the administration to back down from using these vulnerable people as political pawns. But we will continue to stand for welcome and trust and pray that the law will still protect the most vulnerable who are fleeing war, violence, and persecution."

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