Nebraska to decide if more refugees are welcome under executive order

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT)-- Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has a big decision to make, whether to keep allowing refugees into the state. It's a decision every governor in the country has to make by Christmas day.

Aye Sway is from Thailand, she arrived six months ago.

Sway and others are learning to speak English at the Refugee Empowerment Center. Workers like Amanda Kohler want to make sure people like Sway continue to land in Nebraska.

Nearly 12,000 refugees have resettled in Nebraska since 2002, reaching a high in 2016 when about 1,800 landed here.

“It’s very important to keep settling refugees in Nebraska and there are employers who care and people all over the community who really, really care about making sure that maintains… that can still happen,” said Kohler.

An executive order handed down from President Trump in September is throwing everything up in the air.

It requires Governors and Mayors across the country to send in written consent in order to continue participating in the federal government refugee placement program. They have until December 25th. After that, no letter means no refugees starting next summer.

On Thursday three refugee resettlement agencies filed a lawsuit in a Maryland federal court to try and put a halt to the Presidents’ executive order.

"There have been other states that have started to send in their consent, both conservative states, and liberal states, and so I think refugee resettlement has traditionally always been a very bipartisan issue," said Kohler.

Six News reached out to Governor Ricketts today and were told by his office they are currently reviewing the executive order.

As for the reason, the president issued the order, it's in part to try more clearly define the role for state and local governments in the refugee resettlement process.

Amanda is hopeful Governor Ricketts will choose to continue welcoming refugees.

"I don't anticipate any issues, but once again we have to work through all the appropriate parties, all the right channels," said Kohler.

According to the executive order, if a state decides not to continue accepting refugees the cities and towns in it have to go along with it.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert's office told us that they will be sending in their letter of consent in hopes of continuing to welcome refugees here. While in Bellevue, the executive order is still being reviewed.