KEY POINTS

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that Texas would end its participation in refugee resettlement
  • 42 governors will continue to resettle refugees despite new guidelines from the Trump administration that allow them to opt out
  • Refugee advocates in Texas were angered by Abbott's move

Refugee aid organizations, local officials, and refugees themselves are criticizing Texas Gov. Greg Abbot for his decision to stop participating in federal the refugee resettlement program. 

International Rescue Committee, which works with refugees and has an office in Abilene, denounced Abbott's decision, as did the state's 16 Catholic bishops.  

“Governor Abbott’s decision to opt out of the U.S. refugee resettlement program is as shameful as it is out of touch. It is out of touch with Texas’ tradition of welcoming," the committee said in a statement. "Out of touch with 42 governors across the country who approved resettlement, and out of touch with the business community that needs refugees. This is not good for refugees and it is not good for Texas."

The bishops called Abbott's decision "misguided."

"As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien," the bishops said in the statement.

In a letter justifying his decision to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Abbott said that he has a "responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants and the homeless, indeed all Texans."

This past September, President Trump issued an executive order that allowed state and local governments to refuse to settle refugees. Until Abbott's announcement, no other governors have made the decision to refuse refugees -- including 18 other Republican governors who have so far announced that they will continue to participate in the resettlement program. In all, 42 governors have announced they will continue to participate in the program.

Abbott's declaration drew fire from some of those who themselves have benefitted from the refugee resettlement program.

"I came straight from Africa where my life was miserable," said Christian Massamba, a refugee from the Congo who moved to Abilene, Texas, in 2004, and works 60 hours a week in two jobs. "It's sad. The reason I'm sad is because I was a refugee before, too." 

Abbott's decision comes as the Trump administration has already cut refugee numbers to their lowest since the resettlement program began in 1980. For fiscal year 2020, the U.S. is expected to receive only 18,000 refugees.

Local officials also expressed disappointment in Abbott's decision.

“Regardless of where someone is from, who they are, or what they believe, there is a home for them in Houston,” Mayor Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “Our welcoming spirit has led to our city becoming the national leader in refugee resettlement. We remember Exodus 22:21, ‘Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner.’”

Three refugee resettlement agencies are currently suing the Trump administration, claiming the executive order violates federal laws related to refugees.