Texas Republicans abolish refugee agency that helps find homes for asylum seekers

'This agency is no longer operating,' says state Senator Don Huffiness

Clark Mindock
New York
Wednesday 26 April 2017 18:55 BST
Governor Greg Abbott pulled Texas out of the federal refugee resettlement program last year
Governor Greg Abbott pulled Texas out of the federal refugee resettlement program last year (REUTERS)

Texas senators have voted to permanently close the state office that handles refugee resettlement - a move that completely erases the agency from the state’s operations.

The office hasn’t operated in any meaningful capacity since Texas Governor Greg Abbott decided to pull out of the federal refugee resettlement program last year, citing concern that then-President Barack Obama’s decision to continue admitting Syrian refugees was putting the state at risk terrorism infiltration.

“This bill is about eliminating this agency from statute,” state Senator Don Huffiness, the author of the bill, told the Houston Chronicle. “The governor withdrew us from the program. This agency is no longer operating.”

Texas is one of fourteen states that have withdrawn from the federal resettlement program.

Mr Abbott first expressed concern for the program following the November 2015 Paris terror attacks, which saw 130 people killed in a series of coordinated attacks on the French capital.

In a letter to Mr Obama he said that the threat of the Isis was too great for the state to accept Syrian refugees.It later emerged that most of the Paris attackers had French or Belgian citizenship and two were Iraqis, although all had fought in Syria.

But Texas formally withdrew from the entire program last September. Private charities have subsequently helped refugees resettle in the state.

Refugee proponents have decried the Texas Senate’s decision to eliminate the refugee resettlement agency, which was established in 1991.

“We thought it was a bad idea for the state to opt out of the program to start with, because Texas was not opting out of getting refugees. They're still being resettled here,” Bee Moorhead, the executive director of faith-based policy and advocacy group Texas Impact, said.

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