Texas intends to withdraw from the national refugee resettlement program unless the federal government unconditionally accepts by Sept. 30 an alternative plan the state submitted that requires relocated individuals to be “fully vetted.”
State Refugee Coordinator Kara Crawford sent a letter Sept. 21 to the Office of Refugee Resettlement saying Texas would leave the program unless the federal agency adopts the state’s plan.
Gus Reyes, executive director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, was disappointed by the development.
“We had hoped that the two sides could come to some reasonable compromise that would allow us to continue to do ministry without disruption among the refugees in our churches and in our cities,” Reyes said.
“Our primary concern is always for the vulnerable as we seek to be faithful to the biblical command to care for the strangers among us.”
The federal refugee resettlement program “is riddled with serious problems that pose a threat to our nation,” Gov. Greg Abbott said.
“Empathy must be balanced with security,” Abbott stated. “Texas has done more than its fair share in aiding refugees, accepting more refugees than any other state between October 2015 and March 2016. While many refugees pose no danger, some pose grave danger, like the Iraqi refugee with ties to ISIS who was arrested earlier this year after he plotted to set off bombs at two malls in Houston.
“Despite multiple requests by the State of Texas, the federal government lacks the capability or the will to distinguish the dangerous from the harmless, and Texas will not be an accomplice to such dereliction of duty to the American people. Therefore, Texas will withdraw from the refugee resettlement program. I strongly urge the federal government to completely overhaul a broken and flawed refugee program that increasingly risks American lives.”
Federal officials have noted refugees go through a stringent screening process that can take up to two years.
Abbott’s office announced Texas’ decision the day after President Obama pledged to accept about 110,000 refugees from around the world in 2017, a 60 percent increase over this year’s total. Texas has relocated 7,633 refugees during the current fiscal year, which ends Sept 30.