Governor Abbott’s office announced today, September 21, 2016, that Texas is intending to withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program. What a strange and disappointing turn of events. To understand the impact of this unfortunate decision, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/svbicwjbcps7idp/09-22-16%20Texas%20Impact%20One%20Pager.pdf?dl=0
With 65M displaced people in the world, the highest on record in WWII, this is the worst possible time for Texas to go backwards. We are in a global refugee crisis.
Texas has been a leader in refugee resettlement, resettling 62K refugees and 14K Cubans in the last 10 years, and these new neighbors have made Houston’s economy and community stronger. We have tremendous local, city and community support. Volunteers from all major faith groups are actively involved in welcoming refugees.
Refugees undergo the most stringent security vetting process prior to admission. These Americans have a significantly lower crime rate than native-born Americans. These unfounded fears are being used to divide us as Texans, and turn us against our neighbors.
The Texas Assn. of City & County Health Officials has expressed their “extreme concern,” since this will effectively defund health screenings. This will create a humanitarian crisis.
The Bible calls us to “Welcome the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” People of faith need to speak up.
Governor Abbott’s Announcement: http://gov.texas.gov/news/press-release/22682
Refugee Services of Texas’ Press Release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sept. 21, 2016
Chris Kelley, RST Media Relations, 214-457-5266
Statement from Aaron Rippenkroeger, CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, on Gov. Abbott’s Announcement Seeking to Withdraw Texas from the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program After Nearly 40 Years of Compassionate Welcome of Refugees
Refugee Services of Texas is deeply disappointed by Gov. Abbott’s announcement seeking to withdraw the State of Texas from its role in the U.S. refugee admissions program after nearly 40 years of participation, especially at a time in our history when Texas’ compassionate legacy of welcoming refugees seeking safety from violence and oppression is needed more than ever.
The world community is now witnessing the highest level of forced migration on record. More than 65 million people have been torn from their homes and forced to flee war, persecution and instability. Texas is playing a significant role in helping alleviate the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation by providing assistance for refugees, asylees, survivors of human trafficking and related vulnerable populations —75 percent of whom are women and children.
Texas’ integration program, efforts and experience in the resettlement of refugees serve as an international model of success, resulting in the fastest and highest levels of self-sufficiency for those involved. To suggest otherwise is untrue and irresponsible.
Providing security and refuge are not mutually exclusive objectives. Texas has accomplished both objectives for decades. Refugees remain the most scrutinized group of people who come to the U.S., having successfully undergone 20 layers and two years-plus of security checks and clearances, including extensive in-person interviews, biography mapping, biometric analyses, fingerprinting and other security measures.
We agree with Pope Francis who said last week that authentic hospitality is “our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism.”
Ending the state’s support for the refugee assistance program is a departure from historic Texas values, from our shared principles of human decency and constitutes, for many of our volunteers and others, a rejection of the religious belief to serve the needy and vulnerable, including refugees.
With the U.S. accepting less than one percent of the world’s refugees, Texas and the nation has enormous capacity to welcome more refugees, and this latest step by Gov. Abbott fails to recognize all that we have achieved and that which we can still do.
Working together, Texans from all walks of life will work diligently to create a new refugee service structure independent of the State of Texas to ensure that the most vulnerable and needy among us receive the welcome and support that they deserve, that demonstrates our true capacity as a state and a nation and that makes us all safer and prouder in the long run.
About Refugee Services of Texas:
Founded in 1978, Refugee Services of Texas (RST) is a non-profit social service agency dedicated to providing services to refugees and other displaced persons fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, and/or political opinion and also to the communities that welcome them. RST provides services to hundreds of refugees, asylees, survivors of human trafficking and related vulnerable populations from over thirty different countries of origin each year via service centers located in Amarillo, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Statement:
September 21, 2016
Statement from Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO, regarding Texas decision to withdraw from federal refugee resettlement program
BALTIMORE, MD — Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is extremely disappointed that the state of Texas has announced that it is pulling out of the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Texas will still resettle refugees, but the coordinating role that the state has played will be facilitated instead by a designated non-profit organization.
LIRS will continue to work closely with refugee services providers in the state of Texas and local communities over the next 120 days to ensure that the transition does not put refugee families at risk of losing critical, 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 health and social services. Even with four months, however, this will still be a tremendous effort.
Texas leads the nation in refugee resettlement, and the decision to pull out of the refugee resettlement program after nearly 40 years of participation is misguided and inconsistent with that state’s proud history of welcoming refugees.
Despite Governor Abbott’s concerns, we know that refugees entering the U.S. pass through the most rigorous and comprehensive security screenings of any persons admitted to the U.S. Withdrawing from the resettlement program does not make Texans safer or accomplish any public policy goals.
It sends the message that Texas is an unwelcoming place for refugees, and completely disregards the inherent value that refugees bring to the state’s economy, local communities, and the nation. The Governor’s attempt to harm refugees and the communities that welcome them will only serve to stain the reputation of Texas and the United States as a whole.
During a week when world leaders have just concluded two major summits addressing the global refugee crisis, Governor Abbott’s decision sends the exact wrong message to the global community about who we are as a nation. The governor’s actions seem to be calibrated specifically to undermine U.S. diplomacy, as the U.S. and other countries are working to increase humanitarian assistance to displaced persons. At a time when the eyes of the world are watching to see how the U.S. leads, Texas is placing us on the wrong side of history.