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Texas governor to reject new refugee resettlement following Trump order

The governor wrote that Texas and nonprofit organizations had a “responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here.”
Image: US Border Agents Patrol Rio Grande Valley As Migrant Crossings Drop
A U.S. Border Patrol agents detains an undocumented immigrant caught near a section of the privately-built border wall under construction on Dec. 11, 2019, near Mission, Texas.John Moore / Getty Images file

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that his state will reject the resettling of new refugees, making it the first in the nation to do so following a Trump administration order granting local governments such an authority.

The governor wrote in a letter Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Texas “cannot consent to initial refugee resettlement” for fiscal year 2020.

Since fiscal year 2010, “more refugees have been received in Texas than in any other state,” he wrote.

“In addition to accepting refugees all these years, Texas has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system,” he wrote.

The governor wrote that Texas and nonprofit organizations had a “responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants and the homeless indeed, all Texans.”

Abbott added the decision “does not deny any refugee access to the United States.”

“Nor does it preclude a refugee from later coming to Texas after initially settling in another state,” he wrote. “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.”

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In response to the letter, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the president and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, called the decision “deeply disappointing,” 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 — allowing children and families who have been waiting in desperation for years to be reunited with their family in Texas,” O’Mara Vignarajah said in a statement.

The statement said nearly 2,500 refugees “started to rebuild their lives in Texas last year.”

“Historically, Texas has served as a beacon of hope for refugees from across the globe, having resettled the highest number of any state,” O’Mara Vignarajah said. “It is shameful that the state is once again trying to illegally reverse this legacy of welcome and compassion now.”

The refugee resettlement service said the governor's decision superseded that of Texas cities or localities that would have consented to accept refugees.

Governors in 42 other states have said they will consent to allowing in more refugees, The Associated Press reported, citing the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

In September, Trump announced the U.S. would receive only 18,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020, a historic low since the program began in 1980.

The president also ordered that refugees would be resettled in jurisdictions where state and local governments consented to receive them.

“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, which maximizes the likelihood refugees placed in the area will become self-sufficient and free from long-term dependence on public assistance,” Trump said in the executive order.