Texas Threatens to|Quit Refugee Program

     DALLAS (CN) — In its latest salvo against accepting Syrian refugees, Texas threatened to quit the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program if its demands for more intense vetting are not “unconditionally” met by the end of the month.
     Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that Texas would quit the program if federal officials fail to timely approve the state’s plan to take refugees who are “fully vetted” and not a security threat.
     “Empathy must be balanced with security,” Abbott said in a statement. “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.”
     In a Wednesday letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, State Refugee Coordinator Kara Crawford warned that Texas’ plan for 2016 will expire soon.
     “If you do not approve our state plan as amended by Sept. 30, 2016, we will interpret your silence as a rejection of the application,” Crawford wrote.
     Federal officials and refugee assistance groups dispute Texas’ claims of danger, saying the refugee resettlement program is the most difficult way to enter the country because of rigorous security screenings that take up to two years and involve several intelligence agencies.
     Most refugee resettlement services in the United States are provided by nonprofit, religious and charitable groups — not government.
     Aaron Rippenkroeger, CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, said Wednesday his group is “deeply disappointed” by Abbott’s announcement.
     He said the threat to withdraw from refugee resettlement “is a departure from historic Texas values” and that the Texas and the country have “enormous capacity” to take in more refugees.
     “Texas’ integration program, efforts and experience in the resettlement of refugees serve as an international model of success, resulting in the fastest and highest levels of self-sufficiency for those involved,” Rippenkroeger said in a statement. “To suggest otherwise is untrue and irresponsible.
     Providing security and refuge are not mutually exclusive objectives. Texas has accomplished both objectives for decades. Refugees remain the most scrutinized group of people who come to the U.S., having successfully undergone 20 layers and two years-plus of security checks and clearances, including extensive in-person interviews, biography mapping, biometric analyses, fingerprinting and other security measures.”
     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.

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