Gov. Greg Abbott says he's withdrawing Texas from the refugee resettlement program because the federal government refuses to provide assurances refugees don't post a security threat. Experts say, however, that the move will not stop refugees from finding a home in Texas.
Abbott first said he planned to withdraw from the program last week after asking the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Director of National Intelligence to "provide assurances that refugees resettled in Texas will not pose a security threat, and that the number of refugees resettled in Texas would not exceed the State’s original allocation in fiscal year 2016."
With those requests denied, Abbott said he's pulled out of the program to prioritize the safety of all Texans while urging the government to overhaul the broken system.
Texas is the third state to leave the program, along with New Jersey and Kansas.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told NBC 5 last week that the governor pulling out of the program won't stop the refugees from coming.
"The state government doesn't have the power to build a wall around the state and refuse to let the children come here," Jenkins said.
According the Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR, the director can appoint a designee to administer the assistance to refugees, if a state opts out of the program.
"ORR and its federal partners across the administration are working with states to ensure that all refugees and entrants have access to the critical support needed to help them rebuild their lives in the United States in a manner that protects them as well as the safety and security of the communities where they settle," ORR said in a statement Friday afternoon. "While we of course regret Texas' decision, ORR is working to appoint designees to administer services to refugees in Texas, until a later time when competitive bids will be accepted for a Wilson-Fish alternative program. ORR is working to prevent a disruption in the delivery of services and benefits to refugees and entrants in Texas."
Last week Bill Bernstein, deputy director of Mosaic Family Services, a state-funded program that helps refugees once they arrive in North Texas, said he was confident the federal government would find another way to channel money to the agencies serving the refugee population.
In a statement to NBC 5 Friday afternoon, ORR said refugees will continue to be resettled in Texas only after extensive screenings are conducted by the State Department and Department of Homeland Security.
In the last year, about 2,000 refugees have resettled in the Dallas area, with about one in every 10 of them coming from Syria.
NBC 5's Julie Fine contributed to this report.