Texas became the first US state Friday to declare it will not resettle refugees, responding to President Donald Trump’s sustained crackdown on all immigration.
Governor Greg Abbott told the State Department that Texas has to dedicate its resources “to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants and the homeless — indeed, all Texans.”
“Texas has carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process and appreciates that other states are vailable to help with these efforts,” Abbott said in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and published in US media.
The second-largest US state by population, Texas has resettled hundreds of thousands of refugees since the 1980s.
But the Trump administration has cracked down severely on accepting foreigners fleeing disasters and oppression, as well as other migrants and asylum-seekers, and Abbott has supported its tough policies.
In September the State Department set a ceiling of accepting 18,000 refugees for the fiscal year that began on October 1, down from 30,000 the previous year and the lowest level in over three decades.
In fiscal 2016, the final year of the previous administration of President Barack Obama, the country accepted 85,000 refugees.
The same month Trump told states and localities they had to explicitly consent to resettling refugees, whom the administration claims frequently become a burden on social services.
Ahead of a January 21 deadline to declare themselves, a State Department list showed Friday that 38 of the 50 states had announced they were open to resettling refugees.
According to World Relief, an organization which assists in refugee resettlement, four other states were also committed to resettlement, and more than 90 cities and counties had also declared themselves open.
Several refugee resettlement groups have sued to contest Trump’s decision to give states and localities the ability to bar refugees, saying it violates the US Refugee Act of 1980.
Texas Democrats scolded Abbott for his decision.
Abbott “has completely submitted to bigotry and xenophobia,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro.
“You’re just doing Trump’s racist and anti-immigrant bidding. I want all immigrants seeking refuge in America to know: Gov. Abbott doesn’t speak for all Texans. You’re welcome here” tweeted Representative Sylvia Garcia.