SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert is asking fellow Republican President Donald Trump to send more refugees to Utah, saying the state founded by religious refugees fleeing persecution is “far from reaching” the limit on how many people can successfully be resettled here.
The governor’s request, in a letter dated Oct. 24, follows a decision by the Trump administration slashing the number of refugees the United States will accept from the current limit of 30,000 to 18,000 that also included an executive order requiring state and local governments to provide written consent to receive refugees.
“Gov. Herbert is deeply concerned that fewer refugees have been permitted into the United States in recent years,” his spokeswoman, Anna Lehnardt, told KSL. She said the governor hopes the president will “carefully consider” his request.
“We hope he will help us increase the number of refugees sent to Utah, so that we can offer a new homeland to the same number of individuals and families that we have in the past. Even if other states choose to use the president’s new policies to refuse entrance to refugees, we will not,” Lehnardt said.
Utah has historically accepted and resettled more than 1,000 refugees annually, the governor said in his letter.
“Unfortunately, that number has dropped for the past two years and is on track to decrease more this year. We know the need has not decreased and are eager to see the number of admittances rise again.”
Herbert, who is not seeking reelection next year after serving for more than a decade as governor, said the state’s approach to refugees is informed by its “unique history.” Utah was founded by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who headed west after being driven out of the Midwest.
“Those experiences and hardships of our pioneer ancestors 170 years ago are still fresh in the minds of many Utahns,” the governor wrote. “As a result, we empathize deeply with individuals and groups who have been forced from their homes and we love giving them a new home and a new life.”
Refugee resettlement is something Utah does “quite well,” he said in his letter. “Those refugees who resettle in Utah have become integrated and accepted into our communities. They become productive employees and responsible citizens” and contribute to civic institutions and help serve more recent refugees.
The governor also said in the letter he recognizes “that there is a logical limit to how many refugees can be successfully integrated into a state or nation in a given period of time. However, in Utah we are far from reaching that limit.”