Texas first state to stop refugee resettlement under Trump exec order

Republican governor Greg Abbott has written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to opt out of the refugee resettlement scheme, arguing that Texans should take priority for public spending.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Dallas, Texas, U.S., May 4, 2018.  (photo credit: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Dallas, Texas, U.S., May 4, 2018.
Texas has become the first state to close its doors to new refugees, after Gov. Greg Abbott wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to inform him of the decision.
In doing so, Abbott became the first governor to make use of powers awarded by US President Donald Trump in an executive order signed in September, which stipulates that governors must give written consent before refugees can be resettled in their state.
Texas is one of the most welcoming states for refugees seeking to escape dangers abroad,” Abbott wrote, in the letter seen by the Daily Wire. “Since FY [fiscal year] 2010, more refugees have been received in Texas than in any other state. In fact, over that decade, roughly 10% of all refugees resettled in the United States have been placed in Texas. Even today, the process of resettling continues for many of these refugees.”
Texas was being made to cope with a problem of Congress's making, Abbott wrote, arguing that it was not his or his state's place to deal with the fallout of the "disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system,” he wrote, highlighting the 100,000 migrants apprehended crossing the state's southern border in May 2019, and the wide spread of regions from which the migrants have come.
“In June 2019, individuals from 52 different countries were apprehended here. And in FY 2018, the apprehensions included citizens from disparate countries like China, Iran, Kenya, Russia, and Tonga," he wrote, adding: "Texas continues to have to deal with the consequences of an immigration system that Congress has failed to fix.”
The governor made it clear that refugees were welcome to move to Texas having first settled in other states, detailing: "This decision does not deny any refugee access to the United States." However he argued that the state and non-profit organizations have "a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless — indeed, all Texans.
"As a result, Texas cannot consent to initial refugee resettlement for FY2020. Texas has carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process and appreciates that other states are available to help with these efforts,” Abbott concluded.
The decision has been slammed by three refugee-advocate organizations, who are already challenging Trump's executive order in court. HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which was founded in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, is one of them.
“It’s a political gesture that is going to backfire,” said Mark Hetfield, chief executive of HIAS in a statement. “Now Abbott is going to be known as the governor who has slammed the door in the face of refugees when there are governors clamoring to admit more.”
Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, the president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, another of the three to challenge the order, said: "This is a deeply disappointing decision — although not surprising given Texas' previous but unsuccessful opposition to refugee resettlement a few years ago. This is precisely why we filed a lawsuit against President Trump's unlawful executive order, and we are confident that justice will be served."
However, fellow Republicans supported Abbott's decision.
“This is the right position," Rep. Chip Roy, from Hays County, tweeted. ”The federal government has utterly failed Texas, the nation, and immigrants. We endanger both Americans & immigrants when we continue w/ failed open borders. We should secure our border & modernize our immigration system."
State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, also took to Twitter in support, saying: "Thousands of people have been pouring over the TX border week after week, year after year. The same Fed Govt that asks us to receive more refugees has failed to address border security. Dems obstruct Trump’s efforts. Non-border states can step up. @GovAbbott made a good decision."
Ahead of his decision, World Relief, a resettlement agency, and the Evangelical Immigration Table co-ordinated a letter writing campaign urging Americans to write to 15 governors, including Abbott, urging them not to take advantage of Trump's executive order.
The letter urged: "Regardless of their background, refugees are human beings made in God’s image, with inherent dignity and potential, and we have been blessed by their arrival in Texas; we desire to continue to be able to extend love to these new neighbors as an exercise of our Christian faith."
LIRS also denounced the decision on the grounds of religious freedom, with Vignarajah adding in his statement: "The governor’s decision unfortunately disregards the desire of so many of the religious communities we’ve worked closely with in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and beyond, to live out their faith. Needless to say, we are particularly disheartened by this egregious violation of our religious freedom."
Abbott has not issued a comment on his recent decision, but the governor explained the Christian basis for his stance on immigration in 2015 when he led opposition to allowing Syrians into Texas.
“If you want to just be pure biblical about this, it is the role — and I respect the role — of individuals to treat their fellow men with the charity that the Bible speaks of,” Abbott told the San Antonio Express-News at the time. “Similarly, the Bible speaks of the role of government, which is among other things focused on protecting the safety and security of its people. … My hope is that people understand that I am thinking solely about doing everything I can to keep them as safe and secure as I can by making the decisions that I do.”