Texas officially withdraws from Refugee Resettlement Program

Catherine Marfin

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office announced Friday that Texas will no longer participate in the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, which assists in the relocation of thousands of refugees from around the world, citing security concerns with the vetting process.

Prior to the official withdrawal, state officials had threatened to leave the program unless the federal government refused to “unconditionally approve” a state plan requiring increased vetting of refugees and a cap on the number of refugees admitted into the state, according to the Texas Tribune. 

“Empathy must be balanced with security” Abbott said in a statement late September. “Texas has done more than its fair share in aiding refugees, accepting more refugees than any other state between October 2015 and March 2016. While many refugees pose no danger, some pose grave danger … I strongly urge the federal government to completely overhaul a broken and flawed refugee program that increasingly risks American lives.”

Under the current system, refugees go through extensive screening processes through agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and State and Health and Human Services, a process that can take around two years. Once refugees are cleared, they are relocated through nine national voluntary agencies across the U.S., where local nonprofit organizations contracted by the state use federal funding to find refugees jobs, attend school and adjust to American life.  

Texas will no longer oversee the contracting of local nonprofits, but refugees will continue to be relocated in the state. Instead, another organization will be appointed to oversee resettlement efforts, a decision that could lead to an even longer relocation process, a discouraging realization for those seeking refuge in the state.

“Coming to the U.S. was really hard for me because I didn’t know any English back then,” said liberal arts freshman Yoga Karki, who came to the U.S. from Nepal in 2010. “The process to get to the U.S. took a year … and it took me another two years to get adjusted [to American life].”  

Calvin Clites, French senior and outreach and development chair for the Liberal Arts Refugee Alliance, said Texas’ decision stems from fear. 

“[Abbott] wants to look tough, like he’s protecting Texas, because that’s what his constituents want,” Clites said. “This decision only makes the process more complicated. If [politicians] did what I do every weekend, they’d see that these refugees are … not threats to our country, but [are] our neighbors.”