The state of Texas has officially given notice to the Office of Refugee Resettlement that it will withdraw from the federal program if the state’s security plan is not approved by the ORR. Governor Greg Abbott’s words in that notice:
“The federal government’s refugee settlement program is riddled with serious problems that pose a threat to our nation. The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Director of National Intelligence have repeatedly declared their inability to fully screen refugees from terrorist-based nations. Even with the inability to properly vet refugees from Syria and countries known to be supporters or propagators of terrorism, President Obama is now ineptly proposing a dramatic increase in the number of refugees to be resettled in the U.S….”
All of the Episcopal bishops in Texas have issued a response to the notice, published here in full by the Episcopal News Service. While recognizing that nonprofit support of refugees will be continuing and necessary…
Refugees will still lawfully and peaceably resettle in Texas, but the coordinating role that the state has played will be facilitated instead by a designated non-profit organization. We appreciate the Texas state government’s work to cooperate throughout the transition to facilitate uninterrupted care for the refugees and trust the governor’s word that this will go smoothly.
Refugee service providers will work closely with the state of Texas and local communities during the next 120 days to ensure that the transition does not put refugee families at risk of losing critical services. Already, refugees only receive short-term services to help them integrate and rebuild their lives. Local communities and organizations that assist refugees are committed to making sure that there are no gaps in services, but with just four months, this will still be a tremendous effort. These groups will continue their important work of welcoming and supporting refugees in their new homes.
…the statement also calls on lawmakers to “reject fear-based policy making”:
Texas leads the nation in refugee resettlement, and a decision to pull out of the refugee resettlement program after nearly 40 years of peaceful participation is inconsistent with our proud history of welcoming refugees.
More than that, as Christians, we follow a Lord who calls us to care for those who suffer and to show our love for God by loving our neighbor. Our Scriptures teach us that in caring for “the least among us” we are caring for Jesus, and that “Perfect love casts out fear.” We stand in the Abrahamic tradition that insists on generous hospitality toward strangers and sojourners.
While vigilance against terrorism is a real concern, Gov. Abbott’s decision reacts fearfully and broadly against the wrong people, most of whom have given up everything to escape violence and terror and find freedom among us. This decision does not reflect the overwhelmingly welcoming spirit from faith and community partners across Texas. Every day we see Texans practicing their commitment to courage and hospitality by welcoming refugee families and helping them become Texans and Americans.
Refugees want nothing more than to work hard, send their children to school, and build new lives in safety.