Texas Backs Out of Federal Refugee Program

     DALLAS (CN) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday the state has followed through on threats to quit the federal refugee settlement program over concerns that incoming Syrian refugees are a security threat.
     Last week, Abbott threatened to withdraw Texas from the program if federal officials do not timely approve the state’s plan to take refugees who are “fully vetted” and determined to not be a security threat.
     “Texas has repeatedly requested that the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the director of national intelligence provide assurances that refugees resettled in Texas will not pose a security threat, and that the number of refugees resettled in Texas would not exceed the state’s original allocation in fiscal year 2016 — both of which have been denied by the federal government,” Abbott said in a statement released Friday.
     In a Sept. 21 letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, State Refugee Coordinator Kara Crawford warned that if the agency failed to approve Texas’ amended plan for the coming year, the state would “interpret your silence as a rejection of the application.”
     States serve as administrators for the refugee program that is fully funded by the federal government. Texas’ withdrawal will not stop refugees from settling in the state – the federal government will now appoint a nonprofit to administer the program in Texas.
     Texas has taken in more than 1,100 Syrian refugees since 2011, behind only California and Michigan, according to the federal Refugee Processing Center.
     The refugee program was not a prominent political issue until the terrorist attacks on Paris in November that killed 130 people.
     Texas sued the United States and the nonprofit International Rescue Committee in federal court a month later, trying to block any further Syrian refugees.
     Abbott claimed the Refugee Act of 1980 requires federal officials to “consult regularly” with state and local governments and volunteer agencies before placing refugees into new homes.
     A federal judge rejected Texas’ request for a preliminary injunction in February. He dismissed the lawsuit outright in June, concluding that Congress never intended “private enforcement by states” when it passed the 1980 Refugee Act.
     Donna Duvin, executive director of the International Rescue Committee, condemned Abbott’s withdrawal as being “completely out of touch” with Texas values.
     “Refugee families have lost their homes, their jobs, and friends and family to violence and war,” she said in a Sept. 21 statement. “They want nothing more than to live a peaceful life. The governor’s actions cannot obstruct our moral obligation to protect and welcome the world’s most vulnerable.”

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