As Feds Try to Place Refugees in Texas, Resettlement Nonprofits Hold Firm

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Refugees Welcome / Nicolas Vigier

September 21, 2016; Texas Tribune

As readers of the NPQ nonprofit newswire may remember, last year, Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, tried to resist any resettlement of Syrian refugees in that state by threatening local resettlement nonprofits and suing the federal government. Now, in response to the Obama administration’s declared goal of increasing by 30 percent the number of refugees to be resettled in the U.S. next year, Abbott is once again threatening not to participate unless the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement “unconditionally approves” a state plan that would require additional vetting:

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.

Federal officials, of course, have said that the current vetting process, which can take up to two years, is more than sufficient. “This model for refugee resettlement will continue in Texas,” a spokesperson for the federal Administration for Children and Families said in a statement.

Reportedly, in negotiating refugee resettlement plans for 2017, Texas officials have already rejected a State Department proposal to increase the number of refugees resettled in Texas by 25 percent over the 7,633 resettled in 2016. Texas state officials are not allowed to exclude refugees; they may only refuse to participate, in which case the federal government can direct money that would have flowed through the state directly to resettlement nonprofits under the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980. This would require the designation of a state refugee coordinator to disburse funding—a provision now active in six states.

The nonprofits that held steady through last November’s defunding threats continue to do so. “Providing security and refuge are not mutually exclusive objectives,” said Aaron Rippenkroeger, CEO of Refugee Services of Texas. “Texas has accomplished both objectives for decades.”—Ruth McCambridge