Things That Matter

Refugees Are No Longer Welcomed In Texas As It Becomes The First State To Refuse Refugees Under New Trump Rule

We recently published a story detailing how some Republican governors seemed to be breaking ranks with president Donald J. Trump when it comes to a controversial executive order that allows local and state governments to block refugee resettlements in their jurisdiction. This means that a program that has been hailed by politicians, including presidents, from both sides of the aisle is at a clear and present danger of being greatly diminished.

Trump’s order has been blasted by pundits and activists. As reported in The Washington Post: “Critics said the policy change underscores a growing hostility to the country’s refugee resettlement program, especially in some conservative states and the White House.”

So this is Trump’s America and he is standing by his campaign promise of reducing the number of migrants that enter the US under his administration. The social and human cost of these policies, however, has been enormous, and populations that were already vulnerable due to discrimination are further put into the spotlight. 

One of the most important states when it comes to migratory issues is Texas, which shares a long border with Mexico and has a long history of multiculturalism. And a recent decision by its governor has the potential to have longstanding effects on how Texan society and culture is shaped. 

Governor Greg Abbott has announced that his state will reject the resettlement of new refugees.

In a letter penned to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Governor Abbott stated that Texas has “carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process.” He also described the current migration status quo that of “a broken federal immigration system”. And, surprise, surprise, he blamed the Democrat-led Congress for the downfall: “Texas continues to have to deal with the consequences of an immigration system that Congress has failed to fix.”

And yes, Texas has harbored more refugees than most states, so this is not necessarily an anti-immigration move per se, but the move is certainly a disappointing development.

Even if the number of new intakes has diminished in recent years, Texas has taken in more refugees than other states. As BBC reports: “Texas has large refugee populations in several of its major cities. In the 2018 fiscal year, Texas took in 1,697 refugees – more than any other state, but a large drop from 4,768 in the previous fiscal year.”

And as Abbott wrote in his letter: “Since FY2010, 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.”

Well, yes, but we also have to consider that Texas is a huge state and that migrants have greatly contributed to its development. The devil is in the details and in the past. Abbot has a history of opposing the resettlement of certain migrant groups. During the Obama administration, in 2015 to be exact, he tried to reject the arrival of Syrian refugees to the state. This was seen as a discriminatory measure at the time. As The New York Times reminds us: “Under Mr. Abbott’s leadership, Texas sued the Obama administration in 2015 to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees, accusing the federal government of failing to consult with state officials. Mr. Abbott also cited security concerns and said people with ties to terrorist groups were exploiting the refugee program. That lawsuit proved unsuccessful in the courts.”

The governor claims that resources are limited and the system cannot support any more arrivals.

In his letter, the governor stated that the resources the state would allocate to new arrivals should instead go to “those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless – indeed, all Texans”. He also stated that refugees that have already resettled in other states will be free to move to Texas if they wish, but they will not receive benefits. 

And the decision has been controversial and activists are echando el grito al cielo.

Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS, a refugee resettlement group, said in a statement: “This is a shameful decision by Gov. Abbott which is unworthy of the great state’s reputation for being big, bold and hospitable.”

Several church groups are legally challenging Trump’s executive order. And others have used even harsher words. Ali Noorani, executive director at Leaders from National Immigration Forum, said: “At a time of historically low state unemployment rates, why would Texas turn away refugees with an entrepreneurial spirit that contributes to local communities and economies? Turning away those seeking safety and opportunity isn’t just disheartening — for Texas, it’s bad business.”

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