MANCHESTER — City aldermen have voted to back Mayor Joyce Craig in continuing to support refugee resettlement efforts in Manchester.
Under an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in September, both states and local communities must approve refugee resettlements. Without explicit written consent from both the state’s governor and the city or town, refugees cannot resettle in those cities. The order was opposed by refugee rights groups.
Gov. Chris Sununu issued a notice of consent last week in response to Presidential Executive Order 13888, “On Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Resettlement,” for an initial refugee resettlement in New Hampshire under the terms of Executive Order 13888.
On Tuesday, Craig publicly expressed support for refugee resettlement efforts in Manchester.
“Manchester has always been a welcoming community,” said Craig in a statement. “I join Governor Sununu in supporting our resettlement agencies, the International Institute and Ascentria, in their efforts to secure federal grant funds to support refugee resettlement.”
Craig said withholding of consent would not prevent refugees from coming to Manchester. Instead, Craig said, it would likely mean that the resettlement agencies would be unable to secure federal grant funds, impacting their ability to provide services and support to refugee families.
According to data provided by Craig’s office, the International Institute of New England (IINE) and Ascentria Care Alliance each anticipate resettling 50 refugees in Manchester in fiscal year 2020, for a combined total of 20 to 25 families.
“Nearly all of these new arrivals already have family members living in Manchester,” said Craig. “So, if they were to resettle elsewhere, they would still likely migrate to Manchester, without the support of the IINE or Ascentria. Refugees are critical to economic growth in our city. Many refugees are professionals fleeing from war-torn areas, seeking safety for themselves and their families. And with a 2.5% unemployment rate, our economy has benefited as many employers are actively looking to hire refugees to fill open positions.”
“We couldn’t be more pleased about this important development for Manchester,” said IINE in a statement on social media. “What a wonderful way to affirm and support the vibrant refugee community. Thanks to all who worked to educate and inform decision-makers about the economic and cultural benefits of refugee resettlement.”
Aldermen were not required to vote on allowing refugee resettlement to continue. Alderman at Large Joe Kelly Levasseur expressed displeasure with the motion.
“Until this country fixes its chain migration and lottery issues and never ending illegals walking into the country across our southern border that surpasses 700,000 along with its homelessness and opioid problems, and a welcoming Safe Station that has put too many financial constraints on our city and schools...I cannot support this,” said Levasseur.
“The government said it’s okay for them to come, and the federal money comes with them,” said Ward 9’s Barbara Shaw. “When you look at the big picture, they’re going to come one way or another.”
The number of refugees being resettled in New Hampshire has dropped in recent years under the Trump administration.
There were 162 refugees resettled in the state in fiscal year 2018, according to an annual report put out by the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), down from 518 in fiscal year 2016.
In fiscal year 2018 a majority of the refugees resettled in New Hampshire — 103 — came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to DHHS. Between fiscal years 2011 and 2018, the majority of refugees came to New Hampshire from Bhutan; they numbered 1,205.
Between July 2010 and July 2018, Manchester welcomed 1,242 refugees. Concord welcomed 1,292 refugees, with Nashua taking in 622, Laconia 15, Keene three, and Franklin, Exeter and Dover one each.
Since taking office, Trump has lowered the number of refugees allowed into the United States, setting a limit of 30,000 for fiscal year 2019, a new low in the program’s 43-year history.