Even as Many Republican-Led States Continue To Support Refugees, Gov. Greg Abbott Deals a Significant Blow to Texas Communities

Texas is the only state to turn its back on refugees, and we should be ashamed” by the Editorial Board, The Dallas Morning News, January 11, 2020

The Trump administration has worked continuously to undermine the U.S. refugee resettlement program, a foundational element of the U.S. immigration system. An executive order issued on September 26, 2019, requires state and local jurisdictions to submit a consent letter in order to continue resettling refugees. National resettlement agencies have already filed a lawsuit against the order, which adds unprecedented levels of bureaucracy in an attempt to dissuade states from continuing to welcome refugees.

Running counter to the Trump administration’s goal, nearly every state in the country—42 as of January 11—has agreed to continue resettling refugees in their jurisdictions, as have more than 90 local governments. In 17 states, including Arkansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Indiana, governors from President Donald Trump’s own party have opted to maintain the program. Declaring his support for resettlement, Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) explained, “We empathize deeply with individuals and groups who have been forced from their homes and we love giving them a new home and a new life. … They become productive employees and responsible citizens.” More recently, Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) submitted his written consent to continue resettlement in Tennessee, where refugees have made strong contributions to local communities.

But late Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to opt Texas out of refugee resettlement for fiscal year 2020. Gov. Abbott’s letter justified opting out of future refugee resettlement in the state by pointing to Congress’ failure to reform the U.S. immigration system and the challenges Texas faces as a border state. However, further closing off opportunities for individuals in need of humanitarian protection to enter the United States will only make things worse.

While other Republican governors have stood by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program as an important component of a fair, humane, and workable immigration system, Gov. Abbott’s decision to play politics with human lives will only add to the cruelty and chaos that are characteristic of the Trump administration’s approach to immigration.

For more on how to reframe the immigration debate, see CAP’s report: “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System.”