FederalImmigration & BorderStatewide NewsBREAKING: Abbott Announces Texas ‘Cannot Consent’ to Refugee Resettlement in 2020, Emphasizes Strains From Unsecured Border

Governor Abbott has sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informing him of the state's decision to opt-out of the refugee resettlement program.
January 10, 2020
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Today, Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informing him of Texas’ decision to opt-out of the refugee resettlement program under the conditions of President Trump’s executive order. 

“At this time, 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,” Gov. Abbott says.

In September, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Secretary of State and Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a process for state and local entities to give their written consent to accept refugees before the individuals are resettled in their jurisdiction.  

Under the executive order, if state entities do not believe they have the resources required to adequately care for individuals under the resettlement program, state and local jurisdictions can choose to opt-out of the program. 

State and local entities have until January 21 to notify the State Department of their decision about whether or not to participate in the refugee resettlement program.

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Describing Texas as “one of the most welcoming states for refugees seeking to escape dangers abroad,” Gov. Abbott attributes his decision to the state of Texas having to deal “with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.”

“Texas continues to have to deal with the consequences of an immigration system that Congress has failed to fix,” Gov. Abbott says, citing approximately 100,0000 individuals apprehended crossing Texas’ southern border in May 2019 alone.

As previously reported by The Texan, the total number of illegal immigrant apprehensions at the southern border last May was equivalent to the entire population of McAllen or Savannah, Georgia. 

Earlier this month, 39 governors and 86 mayors across the country were listed among those who gave their consent to accept refugees under the terms of the program.

Nearly 90 mayors, including those from Austin, Brownsville, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio, penned a letter to the Secretary of State opposing the executive order and asking for an increase in the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S., which was reduced from 30,000 to 18,000 in Fiscal Year 2020.

In November, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price also penned a letter to Gov. Abbott urging him to give his written consent to continue to allow refugee resettlement in Fort Worth among other parts of Texas. 

Proponents for the program argue that there are economic contributions refugees bring to the areas in which they settle.

This is not the first time, however, that Texas has withdrawn from the resettlement program. 

At the direction of Gov. Abbott during a time of heightened fears of Islamic terrorism in 2016, the state withdrew from the resettlement program for security reasons that included federal authorities’ failure to approve a plan requiring refugees to be screened by officials for potential threats posed to the state. 

In Fiscal Year 2019, Texas ranked first among states in the number of refugee arrivals with nearly 2,500. 

Additionally, according to Gov. Abbott, approximately 10 percent of all refugees resettled in the United States in the last decade have been placed in Texas.

A copy of the letter can be read below:

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Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.