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Oklahoma governor gives consent for refugee resettlement

December 20, 2019 GMT
FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks at a news conference to announce that Oklahoma will release more than 400 inmates after the board approved what they say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history in Oklahoma City. Refugees looking to resettle in Oklahoma will continue to be welcome here, Gov. Kevin Stitt told federal authorities this week. In a letter Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Stitt gave his formal consent to allow refugees to resettle in Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks at a news conference to announce that Oklahoma will release more than 400 inmates after the board approved what they say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history in Oklahoma City. Refugees looking to resettle in Oklahoma will continue to be welcome here, Gov. Kevin Stitt told federal authorities this week. In a letter Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Stitt gave his formal consent to allow refugees to resettle in Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Refugees looking to resettle in Oklahoma will continue to be welcome here, Gov. Kevin Stitt told federal authorities this week.

In a letter Wednesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Stitt gave his formal consent to allow refugees to resettle in Oklahoma.

“Faith leaders across the state reached out requesting the state continue its history of accepting refugees facing dire political or religious circumstances in their home countries,” Stitt said in a statement. “As part of their relocation, these refugees undergo a thorough legal vetting process and often are reunited with family already living in the states.”

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Stitt’s letter was in response to an executive order in September from President Donald Trump that directs states and local municipalities to consent in writing to the resettlement of refugees.

Oklahoma accepted 52 refugees last fiscal year, although that number fluctuates every year, said Jessi Pingel Riesenberg, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City.

In the last 10 years, nearly 3,200 refugees have resettled in Oklahoma, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of State.

While most refugees resettle in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas, there also are some large pockets of refugees from the Marshall Islands in Enid and from several African countries in Guymon, Riesenberg said.

Faith leaders from more than four dozen churches across Oklahoma wrote to Stitt this month urging him to continue Oklahoma’s policy of accepting refugees.

“Refugees play an important role in Oklahoma’s economy,” the letter states. “Refugees are employment authorized from the day they arrive and are eager to embrace the dignity of work, a right that was generally denied them in the countries from which they came.”