News & Politics

Texas Becomes First State to Opt Out of Refugee Resettlement Program

Central American migrants, part of the caravan hoping to reach the U.S. border, move on a road in Tapachula, Chiapas State, Mexico, Thursday, March 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Isabel Mateos)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a letter that Texas would no longer participate in the federal government’s refugee resettlement program. Abbott’s decision became possible because of an executive order that gave state and local governments the right to opt out of taking in any more refugees.

Abbott cited Washington’s ongoing problems getting control of our borders.

Fox News:

In a letter Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, argued that his state has already done “more than its fair share” in resettling refugees and “continues to have to deal with the consequences of an immigration system that Congress has failed to fix.”

Since the 2010 fiscal year, “more refugees have been received in Texas than in any other state” and in the past decade roughly 10 percent of all refugees resettled in the U.S. have been placed in Texas, Abbott wrote.

In addition, he pointed out that, according to federal numbers, about 100,000 migrants have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas since May 2018. He also stated that in the 2018 fiscal year, Border Patrol agents apprehended migrants from China, Iran, Kenya, Russia and Tonga.

Abbott’s decision was not met with universal praise. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali immigrant, tweeted out the Emma Lazarus poem that appears at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty.

As a matter of fact, Lazarus wrote that poem at a time when there were no “refugees,” nor was there even much of an immigration system. If you showed up at Ellis Island, you got in.

Times have changed.

Texas has large refugee populations in several of its cities and has long been a leader in settling refugees, taking in more than any other state during the 2018 governmental fiscal year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Since the 2002 fiscal year, Texas has resettled an estimated 88,300 refugees, second only to California, according to the Pew Research Center.

“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 – all Texans,” Abbott wrote, noting that his decision to opt-out of the initial refugee resettlement program for the 2020 fiscal year does not deny any refugee access to the U.S. and does not prevent any refugee from later coming to Texas after initially settling in another state.

Trump has reduced the number of refugees accepted by the U.S. down from 30,000 last year to 18,000 this year. Is that enough? With war, famine, criminal violence, and a lack of economic opportunity in most nations, people want to vote with their feet and find a better place to live. Millions of human beings are on the move and telling other countries it’s their problem to solve isn’t the answer.

Too many on both sides of this issue are using it as a political weapon. That won’t solve anything and only increases the suffering. An intelligent, compassionate policy would bring order to the resettlement process while allowing only those truly in distress to enter the U.S.

Trump isn’t 100 percent wrong in his efforts to get a handle on the problem. At least he’s trying to bring order to the process. That’s more than those who advocate simply letting anyone into the country who shows up at the border.