Texas Threatens to Leave Federal Refugee Program Over Terrorism Concerns

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at Dallas's City Hall on July 8, 2016.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at Dallas’s City Hall on July 8, 2016.

Texas, which has taken in more refugees than any state in the nation over the past year, is threatening to leave the federal refugee program if the Obama administration does not meet its security demands.

The dispute comes as the Obama administration has announced a new goal of resettling 110,000 refugees in the United States in the coming year, including an unspecified increase in the number from Syria.

In a letter Wednesday to Robert Carey, director of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said that unless Washington “unconditionally” approves the state’s new plan controlling placements in Texas by September 30, the agency will “exit” the program.

Without an agreement, Texas would join Kansas and New Jersey in withdrawing state participation in the refugee program over the federal government’s vetting procedures to screen out potential terrorists.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the letter was sent in response to the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s “unwillingness” to approve the state’s new refugee plan, which would require national security officials to ensure that refugees do not pose a security threat to Texas.

“Empathy must be balanced with security,” Abbott said in a statement. “Texas has done more than its fair share in aiding refugees, accepting more refugees than any other state between October 2015 and March 2016. While many refugees pose no danger, some pose grave danger, like the Iraqi refugee with ties to ISIS who was arrested earlier this year after he plotted to set off bombs at two malls in Houston.”

Obama officials say the U.S. has a thorough vetting process for incoming refugees, but that it is impossible to “guarantee” that none could potentially pose a problem.

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SOURCE: Kevin Diaz 
Houston Chronicle / Chron.com