MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday that Wisconsin will continue welcoming refugees to the state, joining several other governors to make such an announcement since President Donald Trump gave states and counties the power to reject refugees.
In a letter to the Department of State, Evers said Wisconsin has "a rich history of opening its doors" to people of all backgrounds and has done so for more than 16,000 refugees in the past two decades.
Evers, a Democrat who defeated Republican Scott Walker last year, also criticized the Trump administration for creating "an overly cumbersome and inappropriate process" for agencies involved in refugee resettlement, and said its policies risk discouraging immigration that's essential to the state's economy.
Trump this year approved a plan that limits the U.S. to take in no more than 18,000 refugees in fiscal 2020, far below previous levels. He also signed an executive order that lets local officials refuse to accept them.
Despite Evers' declaration Wednesday, Wisconsin counties could still vote to refuse refugees, though there was no indication any were considering it. North Dakota's Burleigh County, which includes the capital Bismarck, l ast week set a limit on the number it would accept.
Wisconsin took in 472 refugees in fiscal 2018, the most recent data posted by the state Department of Children and Families. They came from counties including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and many others.
The numbers show a sharp drop in recent years. The state took in 1,003 refugees in fiscal 2017 and 1,719 in fiscal 2016. In all three years, by far the most came from Burma and settled in Milwaukee County.