AUSTIN, Texas (UPI) — Texas threatened to leave the federal refugee resettlement program, citing security concerns in seeking a more thorough examination of refugees.
On Wednesday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said his state told the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an agency of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, it would leave the program unless a state plan requiring additional vetting of refugees is approved.
“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.
Federal officials said refugees are adequately screened in a process which takes up to two years. One of nine resettlement agencies then places them in communities across the United States, and local non-profit organizations selected by states use federal funding to find them housing, jobs and schools.
“This model for refugee resettlement will continue in Texas,” a spokesperson for the Administration for Children and Families, another HHS agency, said in a statement.
In November 2015, Abbott directed Texas non-profit organizations to stop accepting Syrian refugees, an action dismissed in court as an overstepping of authority.
Texas and the federal government are also negotiating the number of refugees who will be resettled in Texas in the 2017 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The federal government seeks a 25 percent increase over 2016, while Texas has said it would welcome 7,633, the same number as in 2016.
The proposed move by Texas could have little effect on refugee resettlement in the state. Two other states, Kansas and New Jersey, have withdrawn from the resettlement program, over the same security issues. Groups in those states work with the federal government, bypassing state authority.
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