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Texas Bishops Criticize Abbott’s Refugee Refusal

Texas Governor Greg Abbott reacts during prayer services at the Arcadia First Baptist Church in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 20, 2018. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops called Governor Greg Abbott’s Friday decision to veto the resettlement of refugees in Texas “simply misguided.”

“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien. We use this occasion to commit ourselves even more ardently to work with all people of good will, including our federal, state and local governments, to help refugees integrate and become productive members of our communities,” a statement from the bishops read.

Texas became the first state to reject refugees after President Trump signed an executive order giving local governments the power to bar refugee resettlement. Since 2010, Texas has resettled more refugees than any other state.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Abbott, who is Catholic, explained the decision as one motivated by struggles to handle the crisis at the southern border.

“Texas has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system,” Abbott’s letter reads. “At this time, the state and non-profit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants and the homeless — indeed, all Texans.”

Ashley Feasley, director of policy for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Services office, told Crux that the decision would mostly result in refugees not being able to reunite with family in Texas.

Along with the official statement, individual bishops also voiced their concerns with Abbott’s decision.

Bishop of Fort Worth Michael Olson said in a statement that not only were refugees vetted and approved by Trump’s stringent system, but also that “many of these are Christians fleeing religious persecution.”

Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas wrote that he hoped Abbott would “join the 41 other U.S. governors, including 18 Republican governors, who have provided written consent to continue refugee resettlement in their states.”

Both Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio and Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas wrote on Twitter that they were opposed to Abbott’s decision.

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