Westerville City Council was unanimous in its support of a resolution to support refugee resettlement in the city.
The resolution to accept refugee resettlement in Westerville was approved in a 7-0 vote Jan. 7.
City Manager David Collinsworth said the resolution is a "fairly recent development" based on a presidential executive order President Donald Trump issued in September that provides an opportunity for communities to opt in or out or express concern about refugee resettlement in their area.
"The executive order essentially provides an opt-in program for refugee resettlement throughout the country," Collinsworth said.
He said the executive order is an unusual situation because previously, the federal government would work with regional service agencies to help settle refugees throughout the country.
"The executive order allows communities to weigh in on whether or not they wish to be a part of that," he said.
"It was worded such that you have to opt in" if a community was supportive of working with agencies, he said.
Collinsworth said that Franklin County passed a resolution on Dec. 10 in support of refugee resettlement.
Council vice chairman Craig Treneff said the resolution came up rather quickly in light of the executive order, but he strongly supports the resolution.
"I strongly support it for two reasons. One is that the executive order essentially reverses federal policy that has been in place -- for my understanding, decades -- so that we do have to opt-in in order to express ourselves as a community to be accepting of refugees," he said.
The other reason, he said, is that through being involved with Community Refugee and Immigration Services, he has been able to get to know refugees in the Columbus area and hear their stories, which has made the issue more personal.
Mayor Kathy Cocuzzi said she's gotten to know refugees through neighbor-to-neighbor meetings.
"We've gotten to know a large number of the Nepalese and Bhutanese refugees, and when you hear their stories and what they've been through just to get here, they're all proud to be here," she said.
Collinsworth said a communication would be sent to the federal government that the city is interested in continuing to allow refugees to resettle in Westerville.
This action does not require any further involvement or action by the city, according to a staff report connected with the legislation, nor would any city resources be utilized in the enactment of this provision.