Today Governor Jindal issued an executive order banning Syrian refugees from setting in Louisiana. The order instructs all agencies of the State of Louisiana to use all “lawful means” to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees. The order also instructs the Louisiana State Police to monitor Syrian refugees currently in the state.
Jindal’s executive order comes on the heels of numerous governors across the country saying they would refuse Syrian refugees. The question is though what does this order actually mean? Can a governor actually refuse to accept refugees?
Under the U.S. Constitution, states have very little power in the way of immigration. They generally cannot decide who can immigrate to their states. Only the Federal government has the authority to determine immigration policy.
On the other hand, there is generally no obligation for state and local government to enforce Federal law. That’s why “sanctuary cities” can be set up.
The Hayride asked around to some lawyers we know and they honestly couldn’t tell us what this order means. None of them could see how this order could have any practical impact. This is particuarly true if the Federal government simply moves the refugees to military bases or other Federal government properties.
The only article that’s available so far answering the question of whether or not the states can actually do it comes from the liberals at Think Progress. Their answer seems to be no with a huge “but:”
To be clear, states still retain the power to deny their own resources to the federal government, so they could potentially make settlement of refugees more difficult than it would be if the states cooperated. Nevertheless, an act of Congress — the Refugee Act of 1980 — has given Obama broad discretion to allow refugees to be admitted into the United States. The states of Texas, Louisiana and others must yield to that act.
So it seems that Jindal’s order is largely meaningless. He cannot stop the Federal government from resettling Syrian refugees in the state of Louisiana.
However, he can make it more difficult for the Federal government to do so. For example, the Department of Children and Family Services and other state agencies can deny benefits to refugees. But is this completely wise? For example, wouldn’t we want refugees to get help from the Louisiana Workforce Commission in order to enter Louisiana’s job market?
The primary consideration for this executive order is political, as is the case with most actions by Bobby Jindal recently. As a practical matter, this order will do next to nothing to protect Louisiana.