Statement from Linda Hartke, LIRS President and CEO, regarding Texas decision to withdraw refugee resettlement

September 21, 2016

Press Contacts:
Miji Bell mbell@lirs.org; 410-230-2841
Michelle Blundell mblundell@mrss.com; 202-478-6176

BALTIMORE, MD –Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is extremely disappointed that the state of Texas has announced that it is pulling out of the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Texas will still resettle refugees, but the coordinating role that the state has played will be facilitated instead by a designated non-profit organization.

LIRS will continue to work closely with refugee services providers in the state of Texas and local communities over the next 120 days to ensure that the transition does not put refugee families at risk of losing critical, short-term services to help them integrate and rebuild their lives. Local communities and organizations that assist refugees are committed to making sure that there are no gaps in health and social services. Even with four months, however, this will still be a tremendous effort.

Texas leads the nation in refugee resettlement, and 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.

Despite Governor Abbott’s concerns, we know that refugees entering the U.S. pass through the most rigorous and comprehensive security screenings of any persons admitted to the U.S. Refugees also undergo security screenings prior to their arrival in U.S. Withdrawing from the resettlement program does not make Texans safer or accomplish any public policy goals. It sends the message that Texas is an unwelcoming place for refugees, and completely disregards the inherent value that refugees bring to the state’s economy, local communities, and the nation. The governor’s attempt to harm refugees and the communities that welcome them will only serve to stain the reputation of Texas and the United States as a whole.

During a week when world leaders have just concluded two major summits addressing the global refugee crisis, Governor Abbott’s decision sends the exact wrong message to the global community about who we are as a nation. The governor’s actions seem to be calibrated specifically to undermine U.S. diplomacy, as the U.S. and other countries are working to increase humanitarian assistance to displaced persons. At a time when the eyes of the world are watching to see how the U.S. leads, Texas is placing us on the wrong side of history.

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