Texas Governor Greg Abbott became the first governor in the country to choose to withdraw Texas from refugee resettlement going forward on Jan. 10.
President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13888 on Sept. 26, 2019, allowing state governments to choose if they want to close refugee resettlement in their state. Abbott’s decision, which opposed Texas’s extensive acceptance of refugees in the past, has been met with controversy.
This is not the first time Abbott has made a controversial decision regarding refugees. In 2016, after there were requests for Abbott to ensure refugees pose no security threat, he issued the following 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,” Abbott said. “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.”
Abott took the lead in making the decision that refugees will officially no longer be resettled in Texas, unless resettled in another state first. According to Texas A&M Instructional Assistant Professor of Political Science Brittany Perry, Abbott’s reasoning is to protect the people of Texas and its resources.
“From a political standpoint, he is asserting the support of the President that there is an issue with refugees in the United States and speaking to voters who may be directly feeling these effects, whether or not they are real or perceived” Perry said. “From a social science standpoint, I think there is some of this anxiety about this particular group of refugees and the headlines of overcrowding at the border and detention centers and migrant camps. This is something that might be politically appealing for a governor of Texas to support.”
Refugees, Perry said, receive a significant amount of unfavorable media coverage in recent years. Although Texas is primarily a red state, Perry said she predicts that it will continue to move toward the left.
“There’s this potential for immigration to be a very dividing issue in Texas,” Perry said. “We kind of saw a piece of this with the Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz race in 2018. It is a thing that captures the Latino population, mobilizes the Latino population, and could spell trouble for Republicans in Texas.”
Evan Wheeler, English and history senior and President of No Lost Generation, said there are many misconceptions about refugees in the United States. The goal of No Lost Generation is to educate people on the refugee crisis so they’re more accepting.
One of the biggest misconceptions about refugees is their confusion with undocumented immigrants, according to Wheeler’s research.
“Refugees are legal immigrants,” Wheeler said. “In Governor Abbott saying that there were 100,000 immigrants apprehended at the border, those are undocumented. [Refugees] have gone through a nearly 20 step process to get to where they are. This argument is just not true.”
Joseph Ura, associate professor of political science, said the reason Abbott made this decision is because of the public belief that Texas is already too burdened in serving refugees and immigrants. However, he also said that out of the estimated 200,000 people who moved to Texas in 2019, only 2,500 were refugees.
“It is difficult to believe that this proportionally small group of new arrivals are playing a pivotal role in overwhelming the state's social support networks,” Ura said.