In a Dec. 18 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Gov. Kevin Stitt says he will not bar refugees from settling in Oklahoma. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Refugees are still welcome in Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt has told the federal government.

“Faith leaders across the state reached out, requesting the state continue its history of accepting refugees facing dire political or religious circumstances in their home countries,” a statement from the governor says. “As part of their relocation, these refugees undergo a thorough legal vetting process and are often reunited with family already living in the states.”

Faith leaders from more than four dozen churches across Oklahoma had written to Stitt urging him to continue Oklahoma’s policy of accepting refugees, The Associated Press reported.

“Refugees play an important role in Oklahoma’s economy,” the faith leaders’ letter states. “Refugees are employment-authorized from the day they arrive and are eager to embrace the dignity of work, a right that was generally denied them in the countries from which they came.”

The number of refugees accepted into the U.S. and Oklahoma is down sharply in the Trump administration. In federal fiscal year 2016, the number was over 51,901, according to State Department records. In the year that just ended, it was 12,096. In the past 10 years, nearly 3,200 refugees have resettled in Oklahoma, although a spokesman for Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City said the number was down to only 52 refugees last fiscal year.

In September, President Trump announced a national refugee admissions limit of 18,000 a year and issued an executive order that limited refugee resettlement to states and local municipalities that have given advance written consent to the U.S. State Department. The Washington Post reports that no governor has publicly barred refugees.

Fear of outsiders isn’t the American way and, as Stitt demonstrated again, it isn’t the Oklahoma way.

Stitt’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a compassionate move that we think reflects Oklahoma’s history of caring for those in need. We support him for putting out the welcome mat and thank those in the religious community who have stepped forward with advocacy and aid to those coming to America.


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