The city of Bexley is continuing to welcome refugees in light of President Donald Trump's executive order that allows states and municipalities to opt out.

Bexley City Council unanimously gave its consent on Jan. 14 for Mayor Ben Kessler to send a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stating the city would continue to provide resettlement for refugees whenever necessary. Kessler's letter, dated Jan. 15, expresses the same sentiments in Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's Dec. 24, 2019, letter to Pompeo.

"As Governor DeWine communicated to you in a letter on December 24, the State of Ohio has a long and successful history of 'welcoming and assimilating refugees from all corners of the globe,'" Kessler's letter to Pompeo states. "The City of Bexley joins the governor and other cities from throughout Ohio in welcoming refugees from throughout the world who have sought the protection of our democracy and who are now a proud part of the proud legacy of the opportunity for immigrants and refugees over the many generations of American history."

Kessler said he asked council to approve the letter in response to Trump's executive order, issued Sept. 26, 2019, stating that "if a state or locality has not provided consent to receive refugees under the Program, then refugees should not be resettled within that State or locality."

Kessler said the city's decision to continue to accept refugees is in line with a resolution council unanimously approved in 2017, Resolution 7-17, which affirmed Bexley as a welcoming community for immigrants and refugees. He said continuing to accept refugees requires no expense on the city's part.

"I want to be clear that when we say 'refugee,' we mean a legal refugee," Kessler said. "They've gone through a rigorous federal vetting process that takes quite some time ... and there are federal funds applied to that process that would assist with resettling, assist with different social needs."

Council President Lori Ann Feibel said the city's decision to continue to accept refugees would place no additional burden on the city.

"We are, indeed, actually not changing the status quo," she said. "What we are doing is standing by our resolve to be a welcoming community. We are joining other communities throughout our state; we are joining our governor; we are joining a bipartisan effort to uphold the American value of inclusivity of our nation that was built by immigrants."

Council member Richard Sharp said the purpose of Trump's executive order was not to be exclusionary but rather to ensure communities have adequate resources for refugee resettlement.

"Past federal policy had, without warning, forced communities to accept camps or locations where the resources in the community, the schools, social services may have already been overly taxed from other resettlement programs," Sharp said. "That was the main purpose of the order; ... the federal government took into account the community's ability to absorb resettlement programs."

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