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Westerville passes resolution to accept refugees

A Trump administration requires state and local governments to consent to receiving refugees.

WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- President Trump is forcing local communities to take a stand on refugees.

Will they be open or closed to people fleeing their home country?

That issue was addressed Tuesday night by the Westerville City Council. The council passed a resolution by a vote of 7-0 that will officially allow refugees to resettle in the city. (To view the resolution, click here)

In September, the president signed an order saying the federal government should resettle refugees only in communities where the state and local governments have consented.

The state of Ohio has already given the green light.

Angie Plummer with Community Refugee & Immigration Services says last year her agency resettled some 250 refugees in central Ohio.

In a more typical year, she says there are 700 to 800.

"Those coming through the U.S. program have fled their country of origin for fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or their political opinion," she said. "They are people who have been uprooted, have had to leave their homes for safety."

Plummer says there are economic and humanitarian reasons to welcome refugees.

"They pay taxes, they fill jobs. We have many employers who come to us looking for workers. They aren't exempt from paying sales tax, they start businesses. Don't we want to be a country, a city, that helps people in need, helps them start over? Especially because we can."

But a Trump Administration order added extra hurdles to that process, requiring not only states, but cities, to agree to receive refugees.

"In December for example, we had two nephews and a niece of a woman who lives in Westerville arrive. So we wouldn't be able to place them with their aunt if Westerville hadn't consented yet. It hasn't kicked in yet, but that's the fall-out," Plummer said.

On Christmas Eve, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine sent the Trump administration a letter welcoming refugees to the state. (Click here to read the letter)

Tuesday night, the Westerville City Council decided the community will take the same step.

"It does not commit any city resources, it doesn't obligate us to a certain number of refugees or anything of that sort. It simply says that we are open as a community, as we have been in the past," said Westerville City Manager David Collinsworth. "The way the federal order has been worded, it kind of compels our action to preserve the status quo. So for us not to act, means that we are shutting refugees out of our community. And I don't think that city council would want that decision to be made for them. So they're going to make that decision by their action on this item tonight."

Other communities that have taken this step include the City of Columbus, Whitehall, Worthington and Franklin Township.

Franklin County has also issued a letter urging other cities to follow suit.