On Wednesday, in a letter to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Texas announced that it will pull out of the Obama administration’s federal resettlement program. Texas’s decision comes soon after President Obama detailed an effort to increase the number of refugees admitted to the United States from 85,000 in 2016 to 110,000 in 2017. In the letter, Texas writes that it will refuse to assist the federal government unless the administration “unconditionally approves” additional vetting procedures by September 30. Such heightened measures would include the release of declarations from high-level intelligence officials asserting that no admitted refugee is tied to terrorism.
Texas governor Greg Abbott, along with GOP leaders across the country, argue that the United States must better understand the backgrounds of those entering the country. “The federal government lacks the capability or the will to distinguish the dangerous from the harmless,” said Abbott.
Civil rights groups suggest that Republican-led efforts in Texas and across the country are merely the result of political calculation, fear-mongering, and xenophobia. Cecilia Wang, an immigration lawyer and a director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project, said that “Texas is continuing to play political football with the lives of refugee families.”
In a speech delivered on Tuesday to the Leaders Summit on Refugees at the United Nations, President Obama said, “To slam the door in the face of these families would betray our deepest values. It would deny our own heritage as nations, including the United States of America, that have been built by immigrants and refugees.”
Whether or not the Obama administration agrees to alter any of its procedures, the federal funding, totaling roughly $100 million, will likely still move through the state of Texas. The funds will instead be directed toward non-profit refugee resettlement organizations with immigration lawyers on hand to assess individual cases.
Between October 2015 and August 2016, Texas accepted 6,700 refugees, more than any other state in the nation.