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Gov. Greg Abbott Blocks Texas From Resettling Refugees In 2020

By Ashley Lopez, KUT

Texas will not be resettling refugees in the new fiscal year, Gov. Greg Abbott told federal officials Friday.

State officials had until the end of the month to let federal officials know whether they would resettle refugees, many of whom are fleeing violence in their home countries. The federal government reimburses states for each person they resettle.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Abbott said the state would not be accepting refugees in 2020. In the past decade, he wrote, “roughly 10% of all refugees resettled in the United States have been placed in Texas.”

He said nonprofits in Texas already have “a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here,” which he said includes refugees.

“Texas has carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process and appreciates that other states are available to help with these efforts,” Abbott wrote.

Texas technically has not been resettling people in the past few years. In 2016, the state officially  withdrew from the federal program and  left the work to nonprofits here.

Interfaith Action of Central Texas is one of those groups providing services, including English classes, to new refugees. Executive Director Simone Talma Flowers called Abbott's decision “totally unacceptable.”

“I am very upset,” she said. “This is shameful. This is disgusting. I am saddened. It is just absolutely awful.”

Because Texas has resettled so many refugees in the past several years, blocking new arrivals will likely affect families already here and hoping to be reunified.

Flowers said it is somewhat unclear whether local governments will have the ability to accept refugees, even if state leaders don’t.  

“We are waiting to hear more about what happens next,” she said. “But immediately this is very upsetting for Texas to be saying ‘no’ to refugees.”

In his letter to Pompeo, Abbott said his decision is not a permanent block from refugees ending up in Texas.

“This decision does not deny any refugee access to the United States,” he wrote. “Nor does it preclude a refugee from later coming to Texas after initially settling in another state.”