(Image: United States Department of State, Creative Commons)

The Trump Administration issued an executive order last September requiring states to actively opt in to the federal government’s refugee resettlement program. Fortunately, governors across the nation—including many Republicans—have expressed their willingness to help those fleeing conflicts around the world.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, however, has indicated that his state will deny entry to refugees. While making his case for opting out of the resettlement program, he argued that nonprofits should instead focus on homelessness in Texas:

I am putting my citizens first. We have challenges in the state of Texas that must be addressed by these very same nonprofit organizations. We have a growing homeless population in the state of Texas, and I refuse to allow the state of Texas to go down the same pathway of what we’ve seen in California.

Religious leaders across Texas largely condemned Abbott’s callous decision.

On January 15, a federal judge in Maryland blocked the Trump Administration’s order. Depending on how the case pans out in court, Abbott’s refusal to accept refugees may come to naught.

What Abbott clearly fails to realize is that “these very same nonprofit organizations” cannot unilaterally choose to use federal funding allocated for refugee resettlement for other purposes. As Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service President Krish O’Mara Vignarajah explains:

The federal funding that nonprofit resettlement agencies administer limits its use so it can only be spent through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Just as funding for the many federal programs meant to alleviate homelessness cannot be reallocated to refugee programing, resettlement funding cannot simply be reallocated to other problem areas such as homelessness.

Elected officials have a responsibility to understand the daily realities faced by business and civic leaders. Otherwise, they cannot effectively make decisions on policies that impact these institutions, which are responsible for providing employment and vital services to the public.


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