Tennessee, Hamilton County leaders spar over allowing refugees as federal judge blocks local authority

Jasmin Foric from Bosnia and Najar Alsad from Iraq hold candles Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, during a We All Belong vigil at Coolidge Park in Chattanooga, Tenn. / Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith

As the Hamilton County Commission and Mayor Jim Coppinger debated the mayor's impending decision on whether to allow refugees to continue to resettle in the county, a federal judge on Wednesday blocked an executive order from President Donald Trump, which granted the authority to state and local governments to halt resettlement.

At the morning's otherwise tame commission meeting, District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey invited representatives of Hamilton County's Bridge Refugee Services to publicly plead for Coppinger to approve the program ahead of Tuesday's deadline for federal funding.

Simultaneously, U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte of Maryland released a decision blocking the executive order signed by Trump in September, allowing governors and subsequently executive officers of localities - in Hamilton County's case, Mayor Coppinger - to opt out of participating in the federal resettlement program.