Governor Paul LePage announced last week that Maine will withdraw from the federal Refugee Resettlement Program, citing security concerns. Maine will become the sixteenth state to refuse participation with the federal resettlement program.
In a letter addressed to President Barrack Obama, Governor LePage provided the administration with notice of its intentions. “I have lost confidence in the federal government’s ability to safely and responsibly run the refugee program and no longer want the state of Maine associated with that shortcoming,” wrote the governor. Governor LePage referenced incidents of terrorist activities by refugees resettled in Maine and restated the State’s opposition to the administration’s plan to increase Syrian refugee admissions.
States that withdraw from the program, often referred to as “Wilson-Fish” states, do not participate in the placement process or administer aid to refugees, unless specifically required by state or federal law. Often, the federal government gets around states that refuse to participate with the program by contracting with third party organizations to facilitate placement of refugees into those states. Withdrawal from the Refugee Resettlement program, however, will ensure state taxpayer resources are not spent in the resettlement process.
Currently, twelve states refuse participation in the Refugee Resettlement program. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced their states’ plans to withdraw from the program in April of this year, and Texas Governor Abbott announced Texas’ plans to join them in September. Because states are required to give the federal government 120 days’ notice of their withdrawal, Maine may be forced to continue participation until March 2017.