Donald Trump
Donald TrumpReuters

A federal judge has blocked an executive order signed by President Donald Trump that allows state and local officials to refuse to resettle immigrants in their jurisdictions.

In issuing the preliminary injunction in the lawsuit HIAS v. Trump, Maryland federal Judge Peter J. Messitte, a Clinton appointee, noted that the executive order appears to violate federal law since it “grants [states and localities] veto power” and that this “flies in the face of clear Congressional intent, as expressed in the legislative history of the statute.” The judge in his injunction called for refugee resettlement to “go forward as it developed for the almost 40 years before Executive Order 13888 was announced.”

The lawsuit was filed by three faith-based resettlement agencies: HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy group; Church World Service, and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

In their lawsuit filed in November, the three groups argued that Trump’s executive order inhibits their ability to practice their faith by resettling refugees.

The Executive Order signed in September allows individual U.S. states and local governments the power to refuse to allow the resettlement in their jurisdictions of certain refugees from around the world.

“An overwhelming majority of governors and municipalities have already expressed their desire to continue welcoming refugees. To those few who have not, we say not only is it unkind and un-American to ban refugees from your states and towns, but it is unlawful. HIAS will continue our work resettling refugees who have come to our shores looking to restart their lives in safety,” Mark Hetfield, HIAS president and CEO, said in a statement.

This year, the Trump administration cut the number of refugees allowed to enter the country to 18,000 refugees, compared with 110,000 during the last year of the Obama administration.