Governor Greg Abbott says Texas will no longer provide aid to refugees unless the federal government can assure they “are fully vetted and don’t present a security threat.” Federal officials have said the U.S. has a rigorous screening process that can take 1 to 2 years.
In a letter Wednesday to Robert Carey, director of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said Wednesday the state will withdraw from the federally funded refugee resettlement program unless demands for refugee screening are "unconditionally" met by Sept. 30.
A state health spokeswoman says Texas now intends to stop facilitating refugee services and benefits that are covered by federal dollars.
Donna Duvin is the Executive Director of the Dallas International Rescue Committee. She says she’s disappointed in the message Abbott is sending.
“This is completely out of touch with Texas values, and not in keeping with the experience that the IRC and the our community has had over decades of welcoming refugees into their new home.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says he spoke Wednesday to the White House, which provided preliminary estimates on the impact of the state’s withdrawal.
“The state would lose about $100 million which goes to helping 15-18,000 new refugee families that are predominantly women and children. That would have serious implications to the people who provide those services and more importantly to the children and their moms who desperately need those services.”
A judge has already rejected Texas’ efforts to stop refugees from Syria. The White House says the U.S. will take in 110,000 refugees from around the world next year — including refugees from Syria, where a years-long civil war has displaced millions.
Chris Kelley is the spokesperson for Refugee Services of Texas, the largest resettlement agency in the state.
“We've been successfully resettling refugees in Texas for nearly 40 years. Especially at a time in history when Texas’ compassionate legacy of welcoming refugees seeking protection from violence and oppression is needed more than ever.”
Kelley says withdrawing from the resettlement program doesn't mean refugees would stop coming to the state; the federal government could distribute money directly to nonprofit groups in Texas.
Texas and U.S. officials have been negotiating resettlement plans for the 2017 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. Texas officials say they have previously rejected a proposal by the U.S. State Department to increase the number of refugees resettled in Texas by 25 percent, the Texas Tribune reports.
Texas said they'd only accept the same number of refugees relocated to Texas in the 2016 fiscal year: 7,633, the Tribune reports.
The Associated Press and Texas Tribune contributed to this report.