Texas threatens to exit federal refugee program

SAN ANTONIO -- The Texas governor is threatening to withdraw support for a federal program aiding refugees.

Governor Greg Abbott's announcement comes on the heels of President Barack Obama's announcement that the U.S. will accept 110,000 new refugees in 2017.

The executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference, Jennifer Carr-Allmon, expects many of them will come to Texas. Already this year, 1,018 new refugees have resettled in San Antonio.

"When a refugee comes to the United States, no matter what their point of entry is, their ultimate goal is to reunite with family. And because we have such a long history of refugee programs in Texas, many of their families are already here," Carr-Allmon said.

While there are millions of refugees who are escaping violence in worn-torn countries, there's growing concern of refugees who pose a threat to national security. 

Early January, Omar Al Hardan, an Iraqi refugee, was arrested in Houston. He's accused of helping ISIS and plotting to plant bombs at two malls.

Today, Abbott sent a letter to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and mentioned the arrest of Al Hardan. He said Texas will no longer participate in the refugee resettlement program unless the federal government adopts an additional screening process.

He said in a statement:

“Despite multiple requests by the State of Texas, the federal government lacks the capability or the will to distinguish the dangerous from the harmless, and Texas will not be an accomplice to such dereliction of duty to the American people. Therefore, Texas will withdraw from the refugee resettlement program. I strongly urge the federal government to completely overhaul a broken and flawed refugee program that increasingly risks American lives.”

But even if Texas withdraws from the program, the impact will be minimal. The federal government can bypass the state and relocate refugees in states that have withdrawn support from the refugee resettlement program.

"The programs will continue. It will be a set back because there will be some uncertainty during this time. But once a private provider is established, we hope that we will continue to resettle refugees and be the welcoming community that Texas has always been," Carr-Allmon said.

(© 2016 KENS)


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