On Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ® sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo stating that Texas would not accept any refugees going forward. Governor Abbott is the first governor to request that refugees not be settled in his state since President Trump announced that states and localities would now have to opt in to receive refugees. Texas was the first state to refuse refugees after 42 other states decided to continue to accept them.
Trump’s new executive order requires states and localities to opt in to accept refugees, which is a clear ploy to get them to refuse. There’s no good reason for that as Trump reduced the nationwide number unilaterally, a power given to the president by a Congress that has decided that it doesn’t want to make law anymore, from 84,994 settled in fiscal year 2016 to a cap of just 18,000 to be resettled in FY 2020.
Texas’ refusal to settle refugees won’t reduce the total number settled in the United States, it will just remove Texas from the list of locations where they can settle initially. And that’s significant, because 2,457 refugees were resettled in Texas last year, accounting for 8.1 percent of all refugees resettled in the United States. Of the 978,939 refugees resettled in the United States since 2002, about 9 percent, or 88,572 refugees, were resettled in Texas.
Of course, refugees can move to Texas after they get to the United States but they will have to give up certain public benefits. Since Texas has resettled so many refugees over the decades, many likely will move there to take advantage of the job opportunities and large populations of coethnics which, incidentally, seem to help integration and assimilation. Governor Abbott’s decision changes the initial distribution of refuges, with less impact on their final location.
Ultimately, Governor Abbott’s decision to block refugees in his state is shortsighted. At some point in the future, refugees will be legally resettled in Texas and that state’s Republican Party will pretend that a governor from their own party never blocked them in the first place.
There are a lot of problems with refugee resettlement in the United States, but blocking their resettlement is a cure worse than any mild ailment. Abbott’s decision does nothing to reduce the total number of refugees in the United States, but it certainly makes the Texas state government look bad.