Texas says withdrawing from U.S. refugee resettlement program

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 21, 2016 2:07 PM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas gave notice on Wednesday that it was withdrawing from participating in the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement's program, citing security concerns after failing in federal court to halt the inflow of Syrian refugees into the state.

The Texas State Refugee Coordinator sent a letter to the agency, giving 120 days notice of its intention to withdraw, charging the program was riddled with problems that present security risks, Republican Governor Greg Abbott said.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement said in a statement its services to help integrate newcomers into U.S. society are only provided after they complete stringent U.S. security screenings.

"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," Abbott said in a statement.

Texas, a bellwether state for conservative policies, has seen other Republican-led states follow its lead in challenging the Obama administration's refugee resettlement plans in and out of the courts.

"The security vetting for this population - the most vulnerable of individuals - is extraordinarily thorough and comprehensive," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a joint, five-page letter to Abbott in November which outlined the process.

Since Jan. 1, 2011, there have been 1,104 Syrian refugees resettled in Texas, according to the U.S. State Department-affiliated Refugee Processing Center. That is less than the 1,610 people resettled in California and the 1,515 sent to Michigan.

A Texas withdraw is not expected to impair the work of private relief groups from resettling refugees in the state.

The Obama administration said on Aug. 29 it would meet its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees during the current fiscal year a month ahead of schedule and was working with Congress to increase the target by a few thousand during 2017.

U.S. admission of Syrian refugees has been a hot button issue in the 2016 presidential race.

The civil war in Syria has led to a flood of refugees. The United States has offered refuge to far fewer than many of its allies. Germany has taken in over a million refugees from Syria, North Africa and Asia in the last year, while Canada admitted nearly 30,000 between November last year and May 1.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Daniel Bases)