Since the Trump administration issued an executive order in September that provided US governors with the option to stop accepting refugees, more than 30 states have expressed the desire to continue with resettlement programs — and Missouri can now be added to that list.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson sent a letter Monday to the US State Department indicating that the state will continue to resettle refugees, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"Today, Missouri’s population includes thousands of refugees who have become vital members of our communities," Parson wrote in his letter. "I am confident this demonstration of compassion will mark the first step in these immigrants becoming patriotic and productive fellow Americans."
Parson faced pressure from groups like the International Institute of St. Louis, which works to resettle refugees and even encouraged visitors to its website to write letters to Parson asking him to support refugee resettlement in Missouri. Refugee resettlement has broad bipartisan support among US citizens.
There are nearly 30 million refugees worldwide, the most ever recorded, according to the United Nations.
Refugee status is given to those fleeing persecution or conflict. However, the UN also mentions natural disasters and "severe socio-economic deprivation" as two other major global drivers of displacement. Climate change, by driving the rise of sea levels, drought, and the frequency of natural disasters, can also lead to displacement, and the number of displaced persons due to climate-related issues will likely only increase in the coming decades as climate change continues to intensify.
Most refugees are unable to choose a resettlement country. Those who end up in the US are often first recommended by the UN’s refugee agency, according to USA for UNHCR. Once recommended, they must go through an extensive screening process that includes background checks by federal agencies such as the FBI, and multiple in-person interviews. Then, once resettled, refugees can find themselves in new and unfamiliar communities, and not all of them can speak English before arriving in the US.
The US, once the world leader in refugee admissions, has seen rates of refugee resettlement hit "historic lows" during the Trump presidency, according to the Pew Research Center. The administration also intends to admit no more than 18,000 refugees during the fiscal year 2020, which would be the lowest amount since 1980.
So far, 33 states have written to the Trump administration to say they wish to continue to accept refugees, according to Quartz. The remainder of the states have until Jan. 21 to write to the administration to indicate where they stand on refugee resettlement programs.