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Red states welcome refugees

Few places in the United States need fresh blood more than North Dakota, whose infinitesimal unemployment rate — it has more than three jobs available for every in-state applicant — reflects the state’s oil boom. That didn’t stop local officials in Burleigh County, which includes the state capital of Bismarck, from calling for a ban on refugee resettlements.

North Dakota, which is nearly 90 percent white, is among the least diverse states, so it might be tempting to conclude that most of Burleigh’s 95,000 residents want to keep it that way. In fact, angry opposition killed the proposal to ban refugees in the county, where just a couple dozen resettlements are expected in the coming year — not exactly an overwhelming burden.

That may surprise President Trump, who, pandering to his nativist base, issued an executive order this fall allowing states and localities to veto refugee resettlements. He did so having already slashed the ceiling on refugee admissions in the current fiscal year to 18,000, a 40-year low.

President Ronald Reagan cited the United States’ embrace of refugees as evidence the nation cherished freedom. Trump has called them a “Trojan horse,” a stealthy conveyance for internal attacks on an unsuspecting nation — despite the fact that few terrorist incidents here have involved refugees, who are legal immigrants heavily vetted by U.S. officials before their arrival.

The heartening news is that in many places, including conservative strongholds, Reagan’s view of refugees has more appeal than Trump’s. That includes Nebraska and Tennessee, where Republican governors say they will welcome refugees. In Utah, the Republican governor, Gary R. Herbert, as well as Republican congressmen and local officials, have a clear message concerning refugees: Bring ’em on. “We empathize deeply with individuals and groups who have been forced from their home and we love giving them a new home and a new life,” said Herbert, who called the tens of thousands of refugees already settled in Utah “productive employees and responsible citizens.”

In Colorado, a state whose congressional delegation is almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, Gov. Jared Polis (D) says the state will gladly accept refugees turned away by other states or local jurisdictions. Their loss, he noted, would be Colorado’s gain.

Just four years ago, following a wave of terrorist attacks in Europe, 31 governors, all but one of them Republicans, said they opposed resettling Syrian refugees in their states. Now, the political ground may be shifting. No governor has yet publicly accepted Trump’s invitation to bar the door to refugees. Whether some do in coming months may be a barometer of the president’s success in turning the United States into a fearful, trembling nation, wary of newcomers — in effect, the opposite of the principles on which America was founded.

* Guest editorial is from The Washington Post.