The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops has issued a statement condemning a recent decision from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a Catholic, to block refugees from being resettled in the state, calling it “deeply discouraging and disheartening.”
“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor,” they say in the statement, “this decision is simply misguided. It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans. The refugees who have already resettled in Texas have made our communities even more vibrant.”
Abbott conflated unauthorized immigration with refugees in order to join in on impeached president Donald Trump’s xenophobic executive order giving states the power to block these families, the sole state in the nation to do so. While the governor’s move doesn’t block refugees from eventually moving to the state if they were originally resettled in, say, next door New Mexico, it does essentially toss away the welcome mat.
The bishops further state that blocking these families is inconsistent with their faith—and Abbott’s, who “has often cited his Catholic faith to defend conservative policies,” CNN reported. “As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien,” they continued. “We use this occasion to commit ourselves even more ardently to work with all people of good will, including our federal, state and local governments, to help refugees integrate and become productive members of our communities.”
Public blowback to Abbott’s decision has been swift—as it should be—coming from faith-based organizations, local advocates, and leading newspaper editorial boards, in just a few examples. “Nearly 2,500 refugees started to rebuild their lives in Texas last year, many of whom have additional family members in harm’s way seeking to join them in safety. These families have been torn apart by violence, war and persecution—but we never thought they would be needlessly separated by a U.S. state official,” Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said.
”Texas has for decades been a leader in welcoming and helping to resettle refugees who have in turn made this state better,” The Dallas Morning News said in an editorial. “That reputation is tarnished now by opting out of something as fundamental to our national character as welcoming those fleeing war and persecution, as were those who founded this great country.”