The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted today to pass a bill that would allow the city of Manchester to ask for a moratorium on refugee resettlement.
The bill is a seen as a victory for Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, who has been calling for a moratorium since last July.
Manchester Representative Phil Greazzo, a Republican, says the resettlement agency is not doing a good job helping refugees integrate, and the city’s social services are overwhelmed.
"All those problems that the resettlement agency doesn’t necessarily follow up on, the cities are responsible to follow up on and the taxpayers have to wind up footing that bill," Greazzo says.
Under the bill New Hampshire towns could ask for a one-year moratorium on new refugee resettlements, which opponents say the state doesn’t have the authority to do.
The head of the national organization in charge of resettling refugees expressed its disappointment with vote shortly afterward.
Lavinia Limon, the President and CEO of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), says the organization met with Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas in October and agreed to resettle only refugees who have family in there.
"You know when people flee for their lives, the most important thing for them is their family," says Limon, "and to rebuild their lives here, having family is a real asset."
She says that many of these refugees will come to New Hampshire anyway no matter where they have been resettled.
Limon says that since October, only 49 people from 24 families have been resettled in Manchester, though the agency is authorized to resettle 200 in the Queen city this year.
Limon did not weigh in on whether the state has the authority to limit refugee resettlement.