Over the past three years, refugees, asylees and families hoping to reunite in America have suffered continued confusion and setbacks. As we begin this new decade, harmful policies continue to keep families separated and leave vulnerable refugees waiting in limbo. The Administration set a ceiling of just 18,000 refugees for 2020—a new historic low—and America’s global humanitarian leadership is sorely missed as life-saving resettlement slots dwindle in countries around the world.
In September, the President issued an Executive Order that requires governors and county executives to submit a letter of written consent to affirm their support of continued refugee resettlement in their state. A bipartisan majority of 42 governors provided consent, including 19 states led by a Republican. However, despite strong support for refugee resettlement in Florida—from community members as well as business, faith and civic leaders—our state remains an outlier. Governor DeSantis has yet to agree to continuing Florida’s 60-year history of welcoming families fleeing persecution.
On January 15, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of this Executive Order, ruling that state and local officials cannot block refugee admissions in their jurisdictions. While the government could appeal this decision, refugee resettlement will, for the time being, continue as before in Florida. We are no longer seeking consent from the Governor at this time, given the injunction, but will provide updates when the situation changes. We are grateful the City of Tallahassee and Leon County for affirming their consent and support of the refugee program.
Florida has long been a leader in showing hospitality to refugee and immigrant communities and will continue to be a destination for those seeking a safe and welcoming home where they can rebuild their lives. With your support, the IRC in Tallahassee welcomed 122 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo to a safe, new home in 2019. 36 refugee students were matched with volunteer mentors from the Tallahassee community to support their integration and success. No matter what is happening in Washington, D.C., together we can continue to extend compassion to new Americans fleeing violence and persecution and say you are welcome here in Florida.
In 2020, we expect to welcome 120 new neighbors to our state from the Democratic Republic of Congo and we know these families will enrich our communities as have other newcomers before them. But we know too well that none of this is guaranteed, and it is essential that we continue to educate our elected leaders on the incredible contributions that our new American neighbors bring to our state.
On behalf of our clients and staff, thank you for standing with refugees and the IRC in Florida.
J.D. McCrary, Executive Director
To learn more about the work of the IRC in Florida and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.
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