Story at a glance

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that his state would not approve any refugee resettlements in 2020.
  • Texas is the first state to refuse new refugees under a November executive order by President Trump requiring resettlement agencies to get consent from relevant state and local officials wherever they intend to place refugees; 42 other states will continue accepting new refugees.
  • Now, a group comprised of every Catholic bishop in Texas has issued a joint statement condemning the decision of Gov. Abbott, who is himself a Catholic.

Texas has 16 Catholic bishops, and every single one of them opposes the plan of Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to bar new refugees from the state in 2020, according to a joint statement issued by the Texas Conference of Bishops. 

The bishops called Abbott’s move “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” 

Last week, Abbott, who is a Catholic, said the state has done “more than its share,” and would refuse to sign off on any attempts to resettle refugees in Texas beginning in 2020.

Texas is the only state that has taken advantage of a November executive order from President Trump mandating that resettlement agencies get written approval from state and local agencies any place they intend to resettle refugees. Forty-two other states have said they’d continue allowing refugees.

“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided,” the bishops wrote. “It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans. The refugees who have already resettled in Texas have made our communities even more vibrant.”

In a statement Monday, Abbott’s spokesman John Wittman defended the governor’s decision: "No one seeking refugee status in the United States will be denied that status because of the Texas decision. Importantly, the decision by Texas will not prevent any refugee from coming to America. Equally important, the Texas decision doesn’t stop refugees from moving to Texas after initially settling in another state.”

The number of refugees the United States will accept has plummeted during Trump’s time in office. In November, he signed off on the lowest ever cap on the number of refugees the U.S. would accept in the next fiscal year.

The U.S. will now accept just 18,000 refugees, down from 30,000 the previous year and drastically less than the 110,000 allowed in 2016 under President Obama. 

Published on Jan 13, 2020