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Maryland Gov. Hogan agrees to continue accepting refugees

Gov. Larry Hogan’s office released a letter Wednesday indicating that Maryland will continue to accept refugees in response to a new executive order from President Donald Trump.

In the letter dated Monday and addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the governor wrote that he appreciated the flexibility given to Maryland and other jurisdictions to decline refugees, but that Maryland would continue to accept those who are properly vetted.

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The governor specifically said Maryland’s participation in the refugee resettlement program is different than what the president and others have called “sanctuary status” for undocumented immigrants.

“We are willing to accept refugees who the federal government has determined are properly and legally seeking refugee status and have been adequately vetted,” Hogan wrote. “This, as you know, is different from any kind of ‘sanctuary status’ for those in the United States unlawfully.”

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Hogan had a deadline set by Trump’s Sept. 26 executive order, which required state and local governments to issue written consent allowing refugees to resettle within their jurisdictions. A decision was required by Jan. 21.

Maryland has accepted nearly 10,000 refugees since 2016.

The Baltimore-based World Relief Organization reports that more than 30 governors of both parties have said they’ll continue welcoming new refugees — including those of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

In 2015, Hogan was part of a group of 31 governors — nearly all Republicans — who wanted to refuse Syrian refugees out of fear of terrorism. They didn’t have any legal basis to do so at that time, and now that they do, no one has indicated that they will shut out refugees.

Trump issued this executive order shortly after cutting the total number of refugees the United States will accept in 2020 to 18,000 — a historic low.

The executive order said the federal government should resettle refugees only in jurisdictions where both state and local governments have consented to receive refugees under the State Department’s Reception and Placement Program. Trump said his administration acted to respect communities that believe they do not have enough jobs to support new residents.

Hogan also noted that Maryland would continue to accept refugees with the cooperation of local jurisdictions.

The governor did not publicly announce his decision, and spokesman Michael Ricci released the letter Wednesday night in response to a request for comment on a statement Tuesday by Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. State offices were closed for the New Year’s Day holiday on Wednesday.

In an email sent to supporters, Pittman, who has recently refined the county slogan to say “the best place for all,” urged the governor to agree to continue accepting refugees.

“I would like to thank the President — for raising the issue of refugees during the season when so many of our residents celebrate the birth of a dreamer to refugee parents in an unwelcoming land,” Pittman said in a statement.

He called on the community to join him in recommending Hogan “do the right thing and welcome the most vulnerable among us to our great state.”

In a statement issued through a spokesman Wednesday night, Pittman thanked the governor for making the decision.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Talia Richman and Capital Gazette staff writer Alex Mann contributed to this report.

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