One of the first values instilled in us as children is the importance of sharing, especially when we are lucky enough to have more than we need. It is vital that we teach our children to be kind and generous. If we fail to do so, they may grow up to be like Gov. Greg Abbott, a man desperate to have Texas turn its back on refugees.
The Trump administration’s 2019 Executive Order 13888 gave local and state officials the option to refuse refugee resettlement. Abbott made Texas the first state to opt out of the 40-year-old refugee resettlement program. Constitutionally, this executive order sparks much conflict. During a preliminary injunction to prevent Abbott’s opt out, United States District Judge Peter Messitte said the executive order “does not appear to serve the overall public interest.” Morally, this is an issue of boldfaced xenophobia.
Texas is the second-largest state in the U.S., and bigger than many European countries in area. Abbott insists that we have taken in our fair share of refugees since roughly 10% of all resettlements have gone to Texas in the past decade. However, despite Texas’ large population, we have not taken in nearly as many refugees per capita as other states. Last year, with almost 30 million people, Texas only took in about 2,500 refugees. If Abbott wants to talk about Texas doing its part, he should at least have the numbers to show for it.
It is also important to note that refugees are not an economic burden as Abbott would like to suggest. Texas lawmakers emphasized this in a recent letter to Abbott: “This issue is both a moral and an economic one. We have an ethical obligation to help those who are fleeing violence and oppression. … Additionally, refugees make a significant economic contribution to Texas and the U.S. They possess an entrepreneurial spirit: 13% of refugees were entrepreneurs in 2015, compared to 9% of the U.S.-born population. That same year, refugees in Texas spent $4.6 billion and paid $1.6 billion in taxes.” Even if the refugees proved to be fiscally draining, Abbott’s argument would still fall flat.
Greg Abbott is insistent that the burden on Texas is too heavy, and that we simply cannot make room for those seeking safety. It is not uncommon for our governor to target vulnerable communities.
During his time in office, Abbott has gone after reproductive freedom, the LGBTQ+ community, people experiencing homelessness, immigrants, the poor and most recently, refugees. The words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty are “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” When did we become exempt from her message? Why does our governor fight for our state to be cruel?
Opting in to Executive Order 13888 furthers partisanship and puts at risk the lives and well-being of people who have lawfully entered the country. No human being ought to be considered “illegal,” but the argument of legality is nothing more than a veil for xenophobia. This is not a security or financial issue, but one of prejudice. Right now, Executive Order 13888 is under a temporary halt, but to ensure the safety of refugees across the country it is imperative that each and every one of us organize for policy that is compassionate, informed and reflective of who we wish to be.
Greg Abbott is a public servant. He is supposed to work for us. Let’s make sure to remind him everyday that Texas is a place of refuge, Texans are not scared of refugees and there is room for resettlement. When the time comes around, may we organize and elect officials who we do not have to worry about scolding. As a child, Abbott may have missed out on a virtue or two. He might be too old to learn, but it is still our job to try and teach him.