Texas pulls out of federal refugee resettlement program
Texas has formally stopped helping the U.S. government provide aid and services to refugees, citing alleged safety concerns.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said last week that Texas would withdraw from the federally funded refugee resettlement program unless the state's demands for stricter refugee vetting were met.
Abbott said Friday that federal authorities failed to meet those demands, and he announced Texas' official withdrawal. The move follows withdrawals by Kansas and New Jersey.
Gov. Abbott released the following statement:
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. As a result, Texas will withdraw from the refugee resettlement program. As governor, I will continue to prioritize the safety of all Texans and urge the federal government to overhaul this severely broken system.
The announcement may mean an end to Texas agencies' involvement, but Simone Talma Flowers with Interfaith Action of Central Texas says it is not the end of the refugee program.
"Refugees are still going to come and we are going to continue to keep working with refugees no matter what," Talma Flowers said.
Interfaith Action of Central Texas provides English classes to newly arrived refugees.
"We know that they have a certain amount of time to be versed in English so they can go get a job so they can take care of themselves and their families," she said.
The program is federally-funded and helps as many as 800 refugees resettled in the Austin area each year.
"It has taken a long long time to get this smooth operation we have today," she said.
The decision by Texas leaders to pull out of the resettlement program could mean a disruption in service because federal funding helps pay English teachers.
"If we are not able to provide employment for them, they will go somewhere else," she said.
This is not the first attempt by Texas leaders to block Syrian refugees from resettling in Texas.
A judge rejected Texas' efforts to halt the arrival of new refugees from Syria after last year's deadly attacks in Paris. Friday's move means Texas will stop facilitating refugee services and benefits covered by federal funding.
The White House recently announced the U.S. will strive to take in 110,000 refugees from around the world next year.
(AP contributed to this report.)