Waterford Township trustees in Oakland County, Michigan, passed a resolution on Monday telling the federal government not to resettle any refugees, including those from Syria, within the township’s boundaries, until the program “has been significantly reformed.”
The vote was unanimous, seven to zero.
The resolution stated: “[T]he Charter Township of Waterford will not actively participate in the Refugee Resettlement Program until the Program has been significantly reformed, and until it has been demonstrated that the Townships of Oakland County have the capacity to absorb refugees without diverting funds from needy residents or exposing their residents to unwarranted security risks.”
The resolution passed just hours before the Thomas More Law Center announced on Tuesday that it has been selected to represent Tennessee it its lawsuit against the federal government on Tenth Amendment grounds over the operation of the refugee resettlement program by the federal government in the Volunteer State.
It also indicates further legal trouble ahead for the federal government in Oakland County, Michigan, where County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has said he intends to sue the federal government for resettling refugees in the county while failing to comply with the “consultation clause” of the Refugee Act of 1980 that requires the federal to government and the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement to consult with state and local government officials prior to the placement of refugees within their jurisdictions.
The full resolution reads:
RESOLUTION TO SECURE THE TOWNSHIPS OF OAKLAND COUNTY AND PROTECT THEIR RESIDENTS FROM THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF THE REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM
WHEREAS: Refugees are placed in Michigan through the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program, a federal taxpayer funded program that contracts with vendor agencies to coordinate placements and welfare benefits for refugee families coming into our country, and
WHEREAS: State records show that federal vendors operating in Michigan have requested a total of at least 4060 refugees be settled into Michigan in FY 2016, and
WHEREAS: President Barack Obama has called for the resettling of at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States this fiscal year, and
WHEREAS: Federal vendors have, thus far this fiscal year, resettled more Syrian refugees in Michigan than any other state; Oakland County is a focus area for resettlement; and the arrival numbers are expected to surge dramatically given the federal vendors’ preparations, and
WHEREAS: The FBI and other homeland security agencies have testified before Congress that refugees from failed states such as Syria cannot be adequately vetted to ensure that they do not have terrorist ties because the necessary records do not exist, and
WHEREAS: Intelligence officials have testified before Congress that terrorists are seeking to use the program to enter the United States, and
WHEREAS: Federal immigration law requires that local governments be consulted prior to placement of refugees in their communities and that they be involved in defining their local capacity for refugee placements, and
WHEREAS: Federal reports indicate that there continue to be major gaps in communication between federal vendors and local governments and schools prior to the placement of refugees, and
WHEREAS: The Refugee Resettlement process creates significant unfunded financial burdens for receiving states, counties and local communities to provide public assistance to meet refugee needs for schools, law enforcement, housing and health care, etc., and
WHEREAS: There is pending federal and state legislation to reform the Refugee Resettlement Program requiring federal vendors to operate with more transparency, to more fully involve local governments in placement decisions, and to report to the state police all situations which could be related to security risks or human trafficking events,
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Charter Township of Waterford will not actively participate in the Refugee Resettlement Program until the Program has been significantly reformed, and until it has been demonstrated that the Townships of Oakland County have the capacity to absorb refugees without diverting funds from needy residents or exposing their residents to unwarranted security risks.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be provided to all elected county, state and federal officials representing the Charter Township of Waterford.
“The resolution, which has been pushed by the Oakland County Association of Township Supervisors, states that the federal Refugee Resettlement Program creates significant financial burdens for communities to meet the needs of the refugees, WWJ, the local CBS television affiliate in Detroit, reported.
“We’ve got so many people who need jobs in Waterford, what are you gonna do with the refugees that come in here? You’re gonna feed them, you’re gonna clothe them, you’re gonna house them. We can’t afford that; we’ve got veterans that need help,” one Watership Township resident present at the meeting told WWJ.
But resident Scott Hancock had a different view.
“I’ve lived here my entire life. I’ve never been embarrassed to be a Waterford citizen until I saw this resolution,” Hancock told WWJ.
Under the Refugee Act of 1980, state and local governments have standing to sue the federal government for failure to comply with the “coordination clause” of the act.
To date, only two states, Alabama and Texas, have sued the federal government for violation of the Refugee Act of 1980. Both suits lost in federal district court, but are on appeal.
No local governments have yet sued the federal government for its failure to comply with the consultation clause of the Refugee Act of 1980.
The Tennessee lawsuit has not yet been filed, but it is anticipated to be in court within the next few months.