Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state would not be taking any refugees this fiscal year thanks to an Executive Order from the Trump administration, making Texas the first state in the United States to take such position under the new presidential order.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo published on Friday, Abbott wrote that Texas “cannot consent to the initial resettlement of refugees” for fiscal year 2020. In November 2019, President Donald Trump announced in an executive order that refugee resettlement agencies must obtain written consent from state and local officials in any jurisdiction where they seek to place them as of June 2020.
“Texas is one of the most welcoming states for refugees seeking to escape dangers abroad,” Abbott wrote. “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.”
The governor wrote that Texas and non-profit organizations had a “responsibility” to devote available resources to those already there, including refugees, migrants and homeless. He added that Texas has done “more than its due.”
Activists harshly criticized Abbott’s decision, with Texas’ Catholic bishops calling the motion “deeply misguided.” Others argued that Abbott’s stance “overlooks the contributions of refugees to Texas communities and the state economy,” pointing out that it has been statistically shown that refugees bring a net benefit to the economy having even contributed $422.3 million in tax revenue in Texas in 2015. Some Texans have even called the decision “incomprehensible.”
“Refugees have shown an incredible resilience after fleeing extreme and dangerous circumstances,” the Texas Chapter of the National Association Of Social Workers wrote in a statement. “We ask that Governor Abbott rethink this plan and encourage him to once again prove Texas is the supportive, welcoming state that it was in the past.”
Abbott’s decision comes at a moment when the U.S. is also receiving a record low number of refugees into the country. Last year, President Trump set a ceiling of 18,000 refugee admissions for the 2020 fiscal year, the lowest level since the program began in 1980. Former Democratic President Barack Obama, by comparison, proposed resettling 110,000 refugees in fiscal 2017.
For his part, Abbott argues that his state has been left to deal with the “consequences” of an immigration system that the Congress has “failed to fix.” Said consequences, he argued, included the arrival of 100,000 migrants that were apprehended crossing the Texas-Mexico border in May 2019, and of thousands of individuals from 52 different countries that arrived later that June.
Abbott made clear that his decision doesn’t prevent refugees from accessing the United States through other states or coming to Texas if they have already entered the country elsewhere. However, he wasn’t clear on how his resolution might affect any currently pending refugee cases.
Governors in 42 other states have said they will give their consent to allow more refugees to enter, the Associated Press news agency quoted the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service as saying. The governors of Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Wyoming have stayed quiet on the matter.
Three of the nine U.S. resettlement agencies, HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), Church World Service (CWS) and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), have now filed a lawsuit against Trump’s executive order. A ruling is expected by the Maryland federal court.