Declaring that his state has had enough, Gov. Greg Abbott is pulling Texas out of the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
Texas, which has accepted more refugees than any other state since 2010, is the first to quit the program. Opting out became an option under President Donald Trump’s executive order giving local governments veto power over resettlement.
Reaching a high of 8,212 refugees in 2009, resettlement numbers in Texas subsequently hovered around 7,500 annually. In 2016, Abbott unsuccessfully sued the Obama administration to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in the Lone Star State.
By 2019, annual resettlements in the state had dropped to less than 3,000 as Trump reduced the number of refugees allowed into the country.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Abbott said resources should be concentrated on the refugees already here. The governor also noted that Texas continues to struggle with an ongoing influx of illegal aliens.
“In May 2019, for example, around 100,000 migrants were apprehended crossing this state’s southern border. In June 2019, individuals from 52 different countries were apprehended here,” he wrote.
Abbott’s decision doesn’t mean refugees are barred from Texas. The Executive Order allowing states to opt out still permits the government, in exigent circumstances, to settle refugees wherever it has appropriate resources and facilities. In addition, they could still move to Texas after having been settled in another state that’s opted into the program. So far, 40 governors have indicated they are willing to accept refugees, but not without some blowback.
In Tennessee, several counties are opposing Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to allow more refugees. How this will play out is unclear at present. The Executive Order soliciting state and local input on refugee resettlement indicates that the federal government should place refugees only in places where both the state and local government agree to accept them.
Abbott’s action could be reversed if a federal judge in Maryland rules that Trump exceeded his authority with the opt-out provision. Judge Peter J. Messitte, a Clinton nominee, has questioned if the order was politically motivated.
Meantime, mayors of Texas’s biggest cities wasted no time grandstanding on the issue. Channeling his inner Emma Lazarus, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg tweeted, “There’s a guarantee at the gates of our nation that we offer respite to those who seek refuge. Rest assured that the arms of [San Antonio] remain extended, welcoming those who hope for a better tomorrow.”
Nirenberg’s use of Lazarus’s poem, found on a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty, is the typically glib response of open-borders enthusiasts. It’s badly out of time and place. And, ironically, it ignores the fact that Lady Liberty was a gift from France, celebrating the shared Franco-American tradition of republican democracy.
As one skeptic put it: “Regardless of what you think our nation’s immigration policy should be today, it shouldn’t be determined by a schmaltzy sonnet written for a different era.”