(CN) – The Republican governor of Texas said Friday his state will opt out of a federal refugee resettlement program in 2020, even as leaders in the state’s largest cities have indicated they would welcome refugees.
Governor Greg Abbott announced the decision in a letter released Friday, saying Texas "has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system."
Describing Texas as “one of the most welcoming states for refugees seeking to escape dangers abroad,” Abbott said the state had done “more than its share” in assisting with the resettlement program.
Abbott’s decisions comes as a response to an announcement from the Trump administration last September that federal agencies have to get written consent from state and local governments where the agencies want to resettle refugees beyond June 2020.
Governors in 42 states have told the federal government they would welcome refugees under the program, according to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The group, called LIRS for short, is Baltimore-based resettlement agency that tracks the issue and has also sued the Trump administration over the September executive order alongside other organizations.
Leaders in the major Texas cities of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin have also said they would welcome refugees.
“This is a deeply disappointing decision,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of LIRS, said in a statement.
“Historically, Texas has served as a beacon of hope for refugees from across the globe, having resettled the highest number of any state. It is shameful that the state is once again trying to illegally reverse this legacy of welcome and compassion now,” Vignarajah added, referencing the state’s failed lawsuit over Syrian refugee resettlement that was filed in 2015.
In Friday’s letter, Abbott noted that his decision would not prevent refugees from being resettled in other states and then moving to Texas.
“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,” Abbott wrote.
A federal judge heard arguments in the lawsuit against President Trump’s executive order on Wednesday.
Timothy Young, a spokesperson for LIRS, said the organization is expecting a decision on its request for a preliminary injunction blocking the order as early as next week.
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