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In Springfield, Mass., Mayor Sarno Intends To Block Further Refugee Resettlement

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said he will not be granting permission for any more refugees to be resettled in his city. That's after the City Council this week passed a resolution supporting refugees.

An executive order by President Trump will require permission from cities and states before refugees can be settled there. In a statement, Sarno echoed his previous comments about resettlement causing a burden on city services, and calling on other communities to step up.

"It places an unfair burden on our school department and other city services and therefore on our taxpayers," Sarno said. "The City of Springfield has done more than its fair share."

Sarno released his statement one day after the City Council, in a unanimous vote, urged the mayor to "affirm [Springfield's] commitment to welcoming refugees," and "work diligently with refugee resettlement organizations to improve refugee integration."

Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, with Catholic Charities, said her agency only places refugees in Springfield when there's already a family member living there.

"For some of the other resettlement agencies, this will present some difficulty," Buckley-Brawner said. "But I think overall, we have many cities and towns who have stepped forward to say that refugees are welcome." 

Maxine Stein with Jewish Family Service, another resettlement agency, said they tried to sit down with Sarno.

"To resolve any issues, to clarify any concerns and to basically, hopefully, talk with him about the importance of Springfield as being a refugee resettlement city," Stein said. "And, we got no response."

Stein called many of Sarno's concerns "dated" since the Trump Administration announced it plans to cap refugee admissions at 18,000 in the next year, and would have meant fewer placements in Springfield.

Sarno's decision puts him at odds with leaders in nearby communities, including Chicopee, Easthampton, Holyoke, Northampton and West Springfield. All have granted permission for future refugee placements. 

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said his city has been working with Catholic Charities for several years on refugee resettlements.

"We have a lot of members of our community that are committed to it and involved in it," Narkewicz said. "I think it's just part of Northampton's overall approach to being a welcoming city that welcomes immigrants and welcomes refugees."

The executive order by President Trump is facing a legal challenge. Three resettlement agencies last month sued in a federal court in Maryland, seeking to block the policy of allowing cities and states to block refugee resettlement. 

The U.S. State Department said the order would take effect in June.

City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
cmh2315fl / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/21953562@N07
City Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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