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Gov. Herbert asks President Trump to allow more refugees to resettle in Utah

Posted at 8:58 AM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 18:19:26-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Governor Gary Herbert is asking President Trump to allow more refugees to settle here.

In a letter posted online on Friday by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, the governor urged the president to allow the state to accept refugees as the Trump administration reduces the number of people allowed into the United States.

The governor’s office confirmed the authenticity of the letter to FOX 13.

In 2019, the cap on refugees admitted to the United States was at 30,000—the lowest level since 1980. That cap is expected to fall to 18,000 for the next fiscal year.

Gov. Herbert wrote that Utah has historically accepted more than 1,000 refugees each year from a variety of regions.

“We know the need has not decreased and are eager to see the number of admittances rise again,” the governor wrote.

The letter shows a rare break from the Trump administration, whom the governor has enjoyed a friendly relationship with. The governor referred to the experiences of settlers with the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who came to Utah.

“Those experiences and hardships of our pioneer ancestors 170 years ago are still fresh in the minds of many Utahns,” Herbert wrote. “As a result, we empathize deeply with individuals and groups who have been forced from their homes and we love giving them a new home and a new life.”

Herbert states Utah is well-suited to resettling refugee populations.

“Those refugees who resettle in Utah become integrated and accepted into our communities,” Herbert wrote. “They become productive employees and responsible citizens. They become contributors in our schools, churches and other civic institutions, even helping serve more recent refugees and thus generating a beautiful cycle of charity.”

Recognizing the federal government’s authority to set limits, “in Utah we are far from reaching that limit” he wrote.

“We work closely with resettlement agencies and many faith based organizations, and we have the capacity and public will to resettle and integrate at least as many refugees as we have in the past,” the governor said.

In a statement to FOX 13, Herbert spokeswoman Anna Lehnardt said the governor “is deeply concerned” about the number of refugees being admitted into the United States, referencing Utahns’ Mormon history.

“So when we look at those fleeing war and persecution, we recognize that in many ways, their story is also Utah’s story,” she said.

“We hope the president will carefully consider Gov. Herbert’s letter. We hope he will help us increase the number of refugees sent to Utah, so that we can offer a new homeland to the same number of individuals and families that we have in the past. Even if other states choose to use the president’s new policies to refuse entrance to refugees, we will not.”

Groups that work with refugees in Utah praised the governor.

“Our governor, he’s always supportive and he never wavered his support of refugee resettlement,” said Aden Batar, the director of migration and refugee services for Catholic Community Services.

Batar said the need for refugee services worldwide is increasing, despite the Trump administration’s desire to curb those coming into the United States. He said the governor’s letter was “beautiful” and sent a message of what Utahns want the president to do.

Democrats on Capitol Hill praised Gov. Herbert, whom they often find disagreement with on policy:

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, also posted his support:

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski also praised the governor: