Last Friday, Governor Abbott formally opted out of the federal refugee resettlement program, a legal and widely supported form of immigration. While Gov. Abbott habitually demonstrates intolerance towards immigration, this most recent decision actively ignores his basic duties as a public servant and the suffering immigrants are attempting to escape when they relocate to the United States. The refugee resettlement program was born out of the 1980 Refugee Act and places highly vetted immigrants fleeing from their country of origin in the best place possible for their economic and emotional health.
The ability to opt-in or -out of the program came with President Trump’s Executive Order 13888, which declared that states and localities must give written consent to participate in the resettlement program. Trump’s executive order came after he slashed the refugee cap for FY 2020 to less than 20% of the original number, going from 95,000 to 18,000. Since it’s release, 41 states have formally agreed to continue participation with the resettlement program. Texas is still the sole state to decline participation in the resettlement process, despite public backlash to Governor Abbott’s decision. It is disheartening that Governor Abbott brandished Texas with a reputation of being xenophobic, unwelcoming, and insensitive to human needs.
Yesterday, a U.S. federal judge, Judge Peter Messitte of Maryland, ruled the executive order, and by extension Governor Abbott’s decision to pull Texas from the refugee resettlement program, unconstitutional, citing that localities and states cannot be afforded veto power. Judge Messitte also noted in his 31-page report that the executive order violated the 1980 Refugee Act.
Although we feel deeply relieved with Judge Messittee’s decision, we do not underestimate the damage Trump’s executive order and Governor Abbott’s decision have already done. We know both Trump and Governor Abbott will continue to undermine legal immigration, and we will keep fighting regressive policies that run counter to basic human decency.
Below is a list of editorials from major Texas news outlets on the refugee ban, including select quotes from each.
Dallas Morning News | January 11th, 2020
“This is not a question of seeking to enforce border laws… This is about creating space for people with clear and approved asylum claims, and we are sorry that in his letter Abbott chose to conflate Texas’ border struggles with the decision to reject refugees.”
Houston Chronicle | January 11th, 2020
“Asylum-seekers and refugees are some of the most heavily vetted individuals who ever seek a home in the United States. As he noted, Texas has long been a leader in welcoming refugees. In fact, in recent years more refugees have resettled in Houston and Texas than any other city or state in the country.”
Fort Worth Star Telegram | January 10th, 2020
“… the Trump administration has already decided to limit the total number of refugees allowed into the U.S. by the end of the current fiscal year to 18,000, a big cut from previous years. Even if Texas took a disproportionate share, as Abbott noted it has in years past, it would be a relatively small job for the state.”
Austin American Statesman | January 2nd, 2020
“Refugees aren’t making Texas less safe, but they are contributing to the state’s prosperity. Refugees in Texas had $4.6 billion in spending power and paid $1.6 billion in taxes in 2015…”
San Antonio News Express | January 1st, 2020
“… most political leaders across the nation — and across party lines — recognize that welcoming refugees fleeing war, violence and oppression in their home countries is not just the morally right thing to do but also a boon to local economies and community growth.”
Photo above courtesy of KUT.