Updated 4:52 p.m. MDT 11/01/19:
As the Trump administration clamps down on the number of refugees allowed into the United States, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is asking the president to send more of them to Utah.
In a letter sent to the White House Oct. 24, Herbert said the state has historically resettled more than 1,000 refugees per year from various parts of the world, but that number has dropped in recent years.
Since taking office, Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. In September, the State Department proposed capping the number of refugees at 18,000, a historic low since the resettlement program began. The Obama administration had proposed accepting 110,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017.
According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, which runs a refugee services program, 421 refugees resettled in Utah in 2018 – far fewer than the close to 1,200 people resettled in previous years. That number includes refugees who assisted U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan and who were granted special immigrant visas (SIV).
Refugee Services spokeswoman Becky Wickstrom said so far this year, the state has resettled 472 refugees.
Herbert, a Republican, noted that Utah was settled by early Latter-day Saint pioneers fleeing religious persecution.
“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.”
The governor said he recognizes that there is a “logical limit to how many refugees can be successfully integrated” but said Utah is “far from reaching that limit.”
“We work closely with our local 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,” he said.
Utah lawmakers and officials praised the letter on Friday.
Salt Lake City and Utah have a long history of being a place of refuge for those in need. Our refugees contribute to the vibrant culture of our Capital City and state.
— Mayor J. Biskupski (@slcmayor) November 1, 2019
— Speaker Brad Wilson (@BradWilsonGOP) November 1, 2019
— Patrice Arent (@RepPatriceArent) October 31, 2019