North Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott Wants Out of Refugee Resettlement Program

This political season, immigration and refugees in the United States have been hot button issues. 

President Barack Obama recently announced that the United States would accept 110,000 refugees.

He spoke Tuesday at the United Nations about the importance of helping refugees forced to flee their countries. But there is opposition, citing security.

On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is opting out of the Refugee Resettlement program. 

More than 2,600 refugees have settled in Texas from October until this past March. 

Abbott released the following statement Wednesday, explaining his position. It said, in part:

“While many refugees pose no danger, some pose grave danger, like the Iraqi refugee with ties to ISIS who was arrested earlier this year after he plotted to set off bombs at two malls in Houston.

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 it looks like the program will continue, with the funding coming from another entity, not the state of Texas. 

According the Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR, the director can appoint a designee to administer the assistance to refugees, if a state opts out of the program.  

A spokesperson from the Administration of Families and Services released this statement Wednesday, saying the program will continue.

"ORR values the support and partnership of the states including Texas and our network of public-private partners to welcome and integrate newcomers into the fabric of our nation. ORR and its federal partners across the administration are working with states to ensure that all refugees and entrants have access to the critical supports needed to help them rebuild their lives in the United States while continuing to protect the safety and security of communities. ORR’s services are provided only after an individual successfully completes stringent security screenings, is granted refugee status by DHS, and is brought to the U.S. for resettlement by the State Department. This model for refugee resettlement will continue in Texas.“

Texas is the third state to drop out of the resettlement program, after Kansas and New Jersey.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said that won't stop the refugees from coming.

"The state government doesn't have the power to build a wall around the state and refuse to let the children come here," Jenkins said.

In the last year, about 2,000 refugees have resettled in the Dallas area, with about one in every 10 of them coming from Syria.

Mosaic Family services runs a program that help refugees once they arrive in North Texas. State dollars help pay for the program.

"I am pretty confident the federal government will find another way to channel that money to get to the agencies serving the refugee population," said Bill Bernstein, deputy director of Mosaic Family Services.

Refugee resettlement agencies are now working with the federal government to find another way to distribute the money in Texas.

"We don't expect that there would be a lot of changes in service delivery," said Donna Duvin, with the International Rescue Committee.

"It doesn't mean that the funds won't be coming, it just means that there would be another administrative model that would be stood up in its place to be able to receive those federal funds and pass them on to agencies that are serving refugees here in the local communities," Duvin added.

NBC 5's Kevin Cokely contributed to this report.

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