Texas will reject the resettlement of new refugees, its governor said Friday, becoming the first state to publicly do so since a Trump administration executive order granted such unprecedented veto power.
In a letter announcing the decision, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, argued that Texas has “carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process” and said the state’s government and nonprofit agencies have also been strained by “a broken federal immigration system.”
“Texas continues to have to deal with the consequences of an immigration system that Congress has failed to fix,” he wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Under the order, refugees could still make their homes in Texas – but only after settling in another state first, Abbott said. But critics said the policy change underscores a growing hostility to the country’s refugee-resettlement program, especially in some conservative states and the White House.
In September, President Donald Trump gave states and localities sweeping authority to block refugee admissions by requiring their governments to consent in writing before people are allowed to arrive. So far, 42 states have agreed to accept refugees, according to a tracker maintained by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
Texas appears to be the first state to refuse them, a declaration that will take effect this year.
Human-rights advocates and the state’s Democratic lawmakers condemned Abbott’s decision, calling it cruel and antithetical to Texas’s history of welcoming those who flee their home countries.
“This is a disgraceful move by Texas Governor Greg Abbott,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat whose district includes San Antonio, said on Twitter. “He has completely submitted to bigotry and xenophobia.”