The number of refugees being resettled in Texas during this fiscal year is down, but the state is still second to the California. The drop follows the change in policies of the new presidential administration and the halt in Texas’ participation in refugee resettlement.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced on January 31 that officials selected four “Regional Replacement Designees” to administer the program in Texas.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is administering the program in Abilene, Amarillo, El Paso, and Midland, Catholic Charities Fort Worth has Dallas and Fort Worth, and Refugee Services of Texas are administering the program for Austin, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio. The largest city in Texas for resettlement, Houston, has the YMCA of Greater Houston managing refugee resettlement in the area. These nonprofits commenced operation of these assignments on February 1. According to the ORR, “The Replacement Designees will assume the role previously held by the state of Texas to provide critical services and benefits to refugees and other populations served by ORR in Texas.”
ORR also chose the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to serve as the Medical Replacement Designee (MRD), and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a designee for the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program (URD).
The director of ORR is authorized by law to appoint a “Replacement Designee” “when a state withdraws from the refugee resettlement program,” the announcement from the ORR in March said.
“[T]he transition to the Wilson-Fish program did cause a slight slowdown,” Ann Corcoran wrote in a post on Refugee Resettlement Watch.
In Fiscal Year 2017, Texas saw its intake of refugees drop from 1,096 to 351, the Pew Research Center reported at the end of May.
In September 2016, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared the State of Texas would withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement system if the federal government did not “completely overhaul a broken and flawed refugee program that increasingly risks American lives,” Breitbart Texas reported. Abbott charged, “Despite multiple requests by the State of Texas, the federal government lacks the capability or the will to distinguish the dangerous from the harmless, and Texas will not be an accomplice to such dereliction of duty to the American people.”
The Texas Governor noted that law enforcement officers arrested an Iraqi refugee with ties to ISIS in Houston earlier that year when he plotted to set off bombs at two malls in the city. In January 2016, Breitbart Texas reported the refugee, who was living in Houston, was arrested for providing material support to the Islamic State.
The state stopped administering federal funds that help finance social service and other programs for refugees on January 31. These funds include Medicaid for unaccompanied minors and eight months of health insurance coverage via the Refugee Medical Assistance program, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Aaron Rippenkroeger, president and CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, told the Austin affiliate of NPR, “2017 has probably been one of – if not the – craziest years in the history of the U.S. refugee admissions program, which has been around for decades.” He added, “When you do attempt to make sudden adjustments to it, it can have a residual effect for years.”
“And that’s both for the program and the system itself, but many individuals that may be impacted permanently,” Rippenkroeger stated, “The program is smaller right now.”
California, Texas, and New York resettled the most refugees in Fiscal Year 2016, the Pew Research reported in December 2016. The number of refugees resettled in these states was 7,909, 7,803, and 5,026 respectively.
Breitbart Texas reported on April 25 that the Texas Senate voted to abolish the Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs and the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Immigration and Refugees. Senate Bill 260 died in the Texas House Committee on State Affairs after it passed in the Senate.