Texas says withdrawing from US refugee resettlement program

Syrian refugee children pose before the visit of actress Angelina Jolie to hold a news conference at Azraq refugee camp for Syrians displaced by conflict, near Al Azraq city, Jordan, September 9, 2016. (Reuters)

Texas gave notice on Wednesday that it was withdrawing from participating in the US Office of Refugee Resettlement’s program, citing security concerns after failing in federal court to halt the inflow of Syrian refugees into the state.

The Texas State Refugee Coordinator sent a letter to the agency, giving 120 days notice of its intention to withdraw, charging the program was riddled with problems that present security risks, Republican Governor Greg Abbott said.

“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,” Abbott said in a statement.

Texas, a bellwether state for conservative policies, has seen other Republican-led states follow its lead in challenging the Obama administration’s refugee resettlement plans in and out of the courts.

Officials from the Office of Refugee Resettlement were not available for comment. US officials have said refugees are carefully vetted before entering.

The US Justice Department has argued in court filings that the federal government sets policies for international immigration and states do not have authority to halt federal plans.

The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a leading resettlement agency, expressed disapproval of Texas’ action.

“The decision to pull out of the refugee resettlement program after nearly 40 years of participation is misguided and inconsistent with that state's proud history of welcoming refugees,” it said in a statement.

Since Jan. 1, 2011, there have been 1,104 Syrian refugees resettled in Texas, according to the US State Department-affiliated Refugee Processing Center. That is less than the 1,610 people resettled in California and the 1,515 sent to Michigan.

The Obama administration said on Aug. 29 it would meet its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees during the current fiscal year a month ahead of schedule and was working with Congress to increase the target by a few thousand during 2017.

US admission of Syrian refugees has been a hot button issue in the 2016 presidential race.

The civil war in Syria has led to a flood of refugees. The United States has offered refuge to far fewer than many of its allies. Germany has taken in over a million refugees from Syria, North Africa and Asia in the last year, while Canada admitted nearly 30,000 between November last year and May 1.

Last Update: Thursday, 22 September 2016 KSA 23:14 - GMT 20:14

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Texas says withdrawing from US refugee resettlement program
Since Jan. 1, 2011, there have been 1,104 Syrian refugees resettled in Texas
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