On Friday, November 22, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price asked for Gov. Greg Abbott’s written consent to continue to allow refugees to resettle in Fort Worth and other parts of Texas following the issuance of an executive order from the Trump administration.
In a letter addressed to Gov. Abbott, Price says, “As Mayor, I have witnessed the mutually beneficial impact of resettling almost 2,600 refugees in Fort Worth since 2016, I don’t want to risk fixing anything that is not broken.”
Price then continues by saying that preventing the resettlement of refugees could hurt the economy and expresses concerns about how displaced refugees might not be able to reunite with their families in Texas.
In an executive order issued at the end of September, President Trump directed the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a process for state and local jurisdictions to give their written consent to receive refugees before individuals are resettled in that area through coordinated efforts with the federal government.
In accordance with the executive order, if state and local jurisdictions believe they do not have the resources to accommodate individuals under the resettlement program, they can choose to opt-out of the resettlement program overseen by the Department of State.
“The Federal Government consults with State and local governments not only to identify the best environment for refugees, but also to be respectful of those communities that may not be able to accommodate refugee resettlement. State and local governments are best positioned to know the resources and capacities they may or may not have available to devote to sustainable resettlement,” the executive order reads.
In September, the Trump administration also ordered the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. be reduced from 30,000 to 18,000 in Fiscal Year 2020, the lowest level since the Refugee Act in 1980.
Nearly 90 mayors across the nation, including those from Austin, Brownsville, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio, also signed a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging for President Trump’s executive order to be rescinded and for the number of refugees admitted be restored to previous levels.
“The Executive Order would fundamentally change the structure of the U.S. resettlement program by devolving key decisions primarily to the states and ultimately lead to a patchwork of conflicting policies running contrary to the purpose of a national resettlement program,” the letter from the U.S. Conference of Mayors says.
Additionally, the letter attributes the decision to the harm caused to “thousands of refugees, former refugees, and U.S. citizens without consistent and routine access to integration services and other supports.”
Texas ranks first compared to other states in the number of refugee arrivals, with nearly 2,500 brought into Texas in Fiscal Year 2019.
In 2016, Texas withdrew from the federal resettlement program under the authority of Gov. Abbott citing federal authorities’ refusal to approve a plan requiring that refugees be vetted by national security officials to ensure no security threats were posed to the state of Texas.
This came at the height of fears over radical Islamic terrorism following waves of attacks throughout Europe from Islamic State operatives posing as refugees.
A recent FBI report from earlier this year shows that the number one recruitment area in the United States for Islamic terrorist organizations is in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Minnesota is home to an estimated 60,000 Somalis, the majority of whom were born in Somalia, thousands of which were admitted on a refugee basis going back to the 1990s.
At least 45 individuals from the Somali community have left Minnesota to join either the al-Shabaab terrorist organization or the Islamic State. Another 12 have been arrested attempting to join the Islamic terror groups.
Three organizations have challenged President Trump’s action in court arguing the executive order violates federal law by giving state and local governments veto power for decisions about refugee resettlement that are to be made by federal agencies alone.
The plaintiffs include the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in Maryland, Church World Service in New York, and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services also in Maryland.
Price requested that Gov. Abbott provide his written consent at the same time funding proposals from resettlement agencies are due on January 21, 2020.
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.