Gov. Ned Lamont mark pazniokas /

Gov. Ned Lamont chided the administration of President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday in a letter affirming that Connecticut welcomes the resettlement of refugees as “a bedrock principle of the United States of America.”

The letter sent to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is a response to an unusual executive order Trump issued in September that curtails the ability of the State Department to place refugees in a community without the consent of state and local officials.

“I think, more to the point, President Trump was giving some states the option of opting out as far as I could see it,” Lamont said, speaking to reporters after a climate change event where he also distanced himself from the president. “And again, like I talked about with the environment, I want Connecticut take the lead by example.”

No governor or mayor has a right to deny any legal resident, including refugees who enter the U.S. legally after extensive vetting by the State Department, from settling in their state or city, and Trump’s executive order is already being challenged in court.

“There is no basis for this. They have permanent legal status,” said Ann O’Brien, the director of community engagement at Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, the New Haven-based resettlement agency known as IRIS. “There is no legal precedence for this.”

Refugees represent a minuscule portion of the more than 35 million immigrants living legally in the U.S. Hardly a torrent before he took office, Trump has slowed their admission to a trickle, setting a ceiling of 18,000 in 2020 — the lowest in the history of the U.S. refugee program.

The ceiling was 45,000 in 2018 and 30,000 in 2019, according to the Congressional Research Service.

In Connecticut, IRIS helped resettle 530 refugees in 2016, 330 in 2017, 120 in 2018 and 269 in 2019, typically in partnership with a local church or other community institution, O’Brien said. They now live in 50 communities, ranging from the state’s largest cities to the small rural communities in the state’s Quiet Corner.

“It is literally a family here and there,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said the president’s executive order places local officials in the middle of a debate over immigration, effectively challenging them to oppose or welcome their resettlement.

On Monday night, the Burleigh County Commission in Bismarck, N.D., debated whether to become the first local government in the U.S. to formally deny its consent to refugee resettlement. Instead, it voted 3-2 after a packed public hearing to affirm they are welcome.

O’Brien wondered if a presidential order that invites communities to refuse refugees will have the the opposite effect.

“We are very optimistic this actually is going to backfire on them,” O’Brien said. “Every town is going to have to have some kind of conversation about this.”

The mayors of Hartford, New Haven and West Hartford already have written the State Department consenting to resettlement in their communities, and IRIS welcomed Lamont joining them, O’Brien said. 

“We are over the moon with the strength of Gov. Lamont’s statements,” she said.

In a formal statement released with his letter, Lamont cast the executive order as an element of a larger anti-immigrant campaign.

“Attacking immigrants and refugees does nothing to make our communities stronger, and in fact only achieves the exact opposite,” he said. “Connecticut will continue welcoming those escaping persecution and upholding the long tradition of the United States as a place that treats every human being with dignity and respect.”

Trump also signed an executive order in October barring the entry of immigrants who might be a financial burden to the health care system.

Trump has used costs to the U.S. as his rationale for limiting the admission of refugees, but a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found in 2017 that refugees produced more for the U.S. economy than they consumed. The White House rejected the study, according to the New York Times.

Lamont, a Democrat nearing the end of his first year in office, has been working with the Trump administration on a plan to finance transportation infrastructure in Connecticut, and generally has carefully chosen when he criticizes the president. But he did so twice in one day Wednesday.

In addressing a meeting of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, Lamont said, “I think climate change is an existential threat. It’s a real threat, and if they don’t understand that in the White House, we understand it here in Connecticut.”

Lamont Refugee Letter (Text)

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

Join the Conversation


  1. While I think this governor is generous with taxpayer money, these should be for CT citizens and not people that broke the law to get in this country no matter what the reason is. This is the same governor that lives in a town with very little affordable housing. He wants to give money to non citizens while our own citizens are going hungry and are homeless. This governor wants to give money to people that for the most part do not speak English that creates an issue in the towns where the people that broke the law are living in. This is an issue where the governor wants to cut education funding to these same towns that he is praising for accepting these individuals.

  2. I wonder how many there are on the Gold Coast of Connecticut, that exploit illegal immigrants as a cheap source of labor. Gardners, cooks, au pair, maid, etc. Many times it is those who wave the flag for open immigration, who are first to exploit these individuals.

  3. They are very Liberal at spending our tax payer money. Are they going to pay for it from the Rainy Day Fund? No
    Raise more taxes by taxing something they missed, Yes
    The town that want this should have referendum votes and then members of the community can decide if they want to pay more taxes yet again to let in immigrants who start as being burdens on the system and potentially become contributing members of society

  4. How many are welcome? There may be as many as 2 billion people in the world who would like to come to Ct, and would benefit from it. How many can we accomodate?

    1. Hi Michael, in the interest of fostering deeper discussion, can you provide a citation that indicates as many as two billion people would like to come to Connecticut?

      1. I believe 2 billion is a stretch. I have read–from various reputable polling groups, such as Gallup and others–anywhere from 160 million to 750 million to almost 1.5 billion. Some groups have provided multiple numbers over the past few years, so it’s virtually impossible to pin down. Beyond that, ‘wanting to’ does not mean ‘will.’

        Personally, I believe that numbers would exponentially skew upwards if the ‘open borders’ crowd gets their way, making the desire (and likelihood) that much greater.

  5. What is the problem in allowing the states to make up their own minds WRT taking the chance of admitting so-called “refugees”? I don’t understand why Lamont would be against a state taking steps to protect their citizens and it is utterly absurd to say that we should not have a “right to deny any..refugees who enter the U.S. legally after extensive vetting by the State Department.” His first mistake is assuming that these “refugees” have undergone “extensive vetting“. Most arrive with just the clothes on their backs, arrive from countries that hate us, so what comprises the “extensive vetting”? I believe it was Jim Brennan to admitted that most of the “vetting” comes from their “personal testimony”.

  6. This should be just the catalyst of economic growth the state needs to return to prosperity. Combined with sanctuary cities, state budget deficits, social engineering, and exodus of retirees, business, and people of means, there’s no limit to our potential.

  7. Read the Mirror articles on the budget. We are broke!!! Why not heap it on. It will just bring the end on sooner. For me, it is an incentive to leave sooner than later.

  8. Let’s welcome everyone. Just take the 1/2 percentage from state employees, teachers and state pols pay like you did to us to fund flma and let them fund the refugees. There is where Lamont can find the money to sponsor all the refugees. Reminder. We the citizens don’t have any more money. Tolls are going to take that.

  9. The name game. Those seeking Refugee status are by law required to seek asylum in the first country they cross. These are illegal aliens and this administration breaks our laws on a daily basis in favor of law breakers in deference to law abiding citizens. Why are those tasked with upholding the law allowed to break it? The left has turned our country upside down. We are told what is obviously wrong, is right. Alternatively what is right, we’re told, is wrong. The financial and moral bankruptcy is so evident, yet the bloviation continues as if facts and truth don’t matter one iota.

  10. With a decade long stagnant CT economy/employment what are the prospects for securing jobs in CT ? If the Governor focused on restarting CT’s stagnant economy by reducing spending/taxes we’d see more new jobs and make CT an attractive destination State again.

  11. Can Lamont also pay for them, after all the middle class is screwed already and we cannot afford to take care of our own let alone other’s.

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