Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced at the end of January that Texas will not take new refugees under a federal refugee resettlement program. Abbott has stated that more refugees have been accepted by Texas than any other state since 2010, and in addition to receiving so many refugees, “Texas has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.”
Trump signed an executive order in September, stating that “the Federal Government, as an exercise of its broad discretion concerning refugee placement accorded to it by the Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act, should resettle refugees only in those jurisdictions in which both the State and local governments have consented to receive refugees under the Department of State’s Reception and Placement Program.”
In response, Abbott stated that approximately 100,000 migrants were apprehended crossing Texas’ southern border in May of 2019. And, in the 2018 fiscal year, apprehensions included people from China, Iran, Kenya, Russia and Tonga. Abbott’s decision was quickly publicly denounced by refugee resettlement agencies. The decision is said to go against the urging of Texas mayors, religious groups and state lawmakers who had pushed for Texas to continue permitting refugees. Russell Smith, the CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, said in a statement that Abbott’s decision reflects an ongoing confusion between border security, immigration processes and the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. “Refugees who arrive in the U.S. have legal documentation, have been fully vetted and security screened, and represent one of the most resilient, hard-working, entrepreneurial, and successful segments of the population,” Smith said.
Church World Service, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and HIAS—a refugee resettlement group—filed a lawsuit suit against the government stating that the executive order was not legal. In fact, refugees in Texas “had a combined spending power of $4.6 billion and paid a total of $1.6 billion in taxes” that year. The National Immigration Forum’s executive director said in a statement, “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.”