Texas Becomes First State in the Country to Refuse Refugees After President Trump’s Executive Order

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas on Friday became
the first governor in the country to refuse to accept refugees after President Donald
Trump signed an executive order empowering local jurisdictions to consent to the federal
program. “At this time, the state and non-profit
organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already
here, including refugees, migrants and the homeless,” Abbott, a Republican, said in
his letter to the U.S. State Department. “As a result, Texas cannot consent,” to
refugee resettlement this fiscal year, he said. The decision is a major blow to the U.S. refugee
program since Texas is the largest recipient of refugees in the country. The State Department did not immediately respond
to a request for comment. So far, 41 governors – 18 of them Republican
– and at least seven dozen local officials have consented to resettlement, according
to a tally by the resettlement agency Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. Florida and Georgia, other major recipients
of refugees, have so far remained silent on their stance. The governor’s office in Florida said it
was still reviewing the issue and Georgia declined to comment. Cutting immigration has been a centerpiece
of Trump’s presidency and 2020 re-election campaign. One of his first acts after assuming office
in January 2017 was to issue an order capping the maximum number of refugees that year at
50,000. Since then, the cap has been slashed every
year. Trump set a ceiling of 18,000 refugee admissions
for this year, the lowest level since the modern refugee program began in 1980. By contrast, former Democratic President Barack
Obama proposed resettling 110,000 refugees in fiscal 2017. The administration has said the consent requirement,
signed in September, aimed to ensure receiving communities have the resources to integrate
refugees. But refugee resettlement groups have argued
that giving local governors and mayors a veto over whom they accept is unconstitutional
and would disrupt the way they work. Three of the nine national resettlement agencies
sued the Trump administration in federal court in an effort to block the order from being
implemented. Arguments in the case were held this week,
and U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Greenbelt, Maryland, appointed by former Democratic
President Bill Clinton, could rule on the case soon.

Stephen Childs

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