A sign outside a home in Salem's Fairmount neighborhood (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)
Marion County will continue accepting refugee resettlement, commissioners told the U.S. State Department last week.
“Marion County has welcoming and supportive nonprofits who administer refugee resettlement programs in our area. These groups are prepared to continue their work and Marion County supports their efforts,” Commission Chair Colm Willis wrote in a Jan. 14 letter.
It may be a moot point – a federal judge ruled Jan. 15 that an executive order from President Donald Trump allowing state and local leaders to block resettlement appeared to be “unlawful” and temporarily halted its implementation.
Local governments usually aren’t directly involved in resettlement. But in September, President Donald Trump issued an executive order saying states and counties must decide whether they want to keep accepting refugees vetted by the federal government.
Polk County had not yet signed on to keep accepting refugees before the court ruling.
Marion County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley said commissioners signed on after talking to Salem and Keizer leaders, who were supportive.
The U.S. State Department approves refugees to come to the U.S. and pays a private resettlement agency to handle the logistics of getting refugees settled in their new home.
Portland-based resettlement agencies in 2015 began settling some families in Salem because of rising housing costs in Portland. Since then, about one family per month has come to the Salem area from countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine and Iraq.
Matthew Westerbeck, director of refugee services for Catholic Charities of Oregon, said he’s continuing to talk to counties about refugee resettlement even though they’re no longer required to submit letters to the State Department.
He said no new refugee families are currently scheduled to arrive in Salem.
Reporter Rachel Alexander: (503) 575-1241 or [email protected]