Texas papers slam governor's 'shocking' refusal to accept any more refugees

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Gov. Greg Abbott's refusal to resettle any additional refugees in his state is 'incomprehensible,' the Houston Chronicle wrote.

Two of the largest newspapers in Texas have slammed Gov. Greg Abbott's recent decision to refuse to allow refugees to settle in the state in 2020.

"It was with some shock and not a little shame that we learned Texas is the first state in the nation to opt out of the federal refugee resettlement program," the Dallas Morning News editorial board wrote on Saturday.

In a separate editorial also published Saturday, the Houston Chronicle described Abbott's actions as "both shocking and incomprehensible."

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Abbott sent a letter to the Trump administration on Friday announcing that Texas would not participate in the federal program to resettle refugees in 2020, according to the Austin American-Statesman. In his letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Abbott blamed "a broken federal immigration system" as his reason for not participating.

The governor also conflated refugees fleeing violence, who have undergone an extensive vetting process, with undocumented immigrants.

According to the Statesman, Texas is now the first state to take advantage of a new Trump administration rule allowing states to opt out of the refugee program, even though he felt pressure to remain from refugee advocates and evangelical Christians.

Abbott's decision "is a departure from an American spirit of helping refugees fleeing war and persecution, whether from Vietnam, Cuba, Africa or beyond," the Morning News wrote in its editorial on Saturday.

"Texas has for decades been a leader in welcoming and helping to resettle refugees who have in turn made this state better. That reputation is tarnished now by opting out of something as fundamental to our national character as welcoming those fleeing war and persecution, as were those who founded this great country."

Both the Morning News and Chronicle also flatly rejected Abbott's reasoning for rejecting refugees.

"Abbott should know better," the Chronicle wrote. "Asylum-seekers and refugees are some of the most heavily vetted individuals who ever seek a home in the United States." The governor's decision, the board wrote, "deprives cities like Houston of the new residents who might have helped our city grow and prosper, as so many refugees in the past have."

In the past, Texas has helped resettle more refugees than any other state, according to the Statesman, although that number has been dropping in recent years. In 2019, the state resettled nearly 2,500 refugees.

Abbott's decision runs counter to decisions by governors in both liberal and conservative states to continue accepting refugees. The governors of 42 states, including Kansas, Missouri, and West Virginia, have agreed to continue working with the federal refugee resettlement program according to a list maintained by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

The Texas Democratic Party also pushed back on Abbott's decision in a statement on Friday.

"Refugees are not political pawns and bargaining chips to advance anti-immigrant policies," said Abhi Rahman, the party's communications director. "We cannot let Republican racism overpower our love and compassion for our brothers and sisters fleeing violence across the world."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.