Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott has had enough. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Abbott makes no bones about it: There will be no more refugee resettlement in Fiscal Year 2020 in the Lone Star State. It comes as no surprise. It follows the 90-day response requirements of President Trump’s September 2019 Executive Order 13888: Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement. Texas is just the first state to politely opt out.
Abbott’s missive begins with how welcoming Texas has been throughout the years to refugees – they are the state that has roughly 10% of all refugees resettled – but transitions quickly to reasons why the state is refusing to participate with any further resettlement plans:
“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. At this time, the state and non-profit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless — indeed, all Texans.”
Whether they disagreed or not with refugee resettlement, more than 42 other governors – Republican and Democrat – are signaling a willingness to take on refugees in the coming year.
Punitive or Preemptive?
In response, nine of the 150 Representatives in the Texas State House of Representatives – each one a Democrat – penned a letter to Abbott. The signatories were Vikki Goodwin, Michelle Beckley Rhetta Bowers, Gina Hinojosa, Donna Howard, Jon Rosenthal, James Talarico, John Turner, and Erin Zwiener.
“This issue is both a moral and an economic one. We have an ethical obligation to help those who are fleeing violence and oppression.”
Apparently, the other members of the legislature are staying mum on the subject. And because it is a Trump Executive Order, it is being challenged in the court system as anti-American, or just downright mean, for the president to attempt to level the playing field.
Church World Service, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) have filed suit against the government saying the order is simply illegal. On their website, HIAS declares: “The agencies charge that the order violates federal law and is yet another attempt by the Trump administration to restrict refugee resettlement in the United States.”
The violation of federal law is Trump’s allowing overwhelmed states to say “no,” as Governor Abbott recently did for Texas. Without the executive order, the law requires federal agencies to make decisions about where refugees are to be placed, leaving no room for state and local governments to opt out of the program due to financial or service hardships.
For now, Mr. Abbott is standing his ground and giving his border communities a break from added refugees and immigrants – illegal or not.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.