AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas is a top state for refugee resettlement, but that could soon change. The U.S. Department of State has given governors until January 21 to notify them of whether their states will remain in the refugee resettlement program. One not on that list so far: Gov. Greg Abbott.
- States in September made to opt in to federal refugee program
- Gov. Abbott so far mum on if Texas will opt out
- Some fear funding could be cut
Lubina Zeidan teaches English as a second language to refugees resettled in Texas. She says the number of refugees in her English classes have dwindled.
"Two years ago we served in our English classes, about 800 refugee students. Last year it was under 200," said Zeidan.
And that could be cut even further if Abbott decides to opt out of the federal refugee program. This deadline comes after Trump signed an executive order in September requiring state and local governments to opt in to the program. While 41 other states have agreed, it's still unclear what Abbott will do.
And Zeidan worries about the sustainability of already struggling service providers.
"It's just putting more barriers to programs like ours," said Zeidan.
Adlita Winchester is with Caritas of Austin, an organization that provides services for refugees. Winchester says the state's economy will suffer if refugees are no longer accepted.
"The richness of it is the diversity of cultures, languages, backgrounds. You have refugees as highly educated engineers, professors," said Winchester.
In 2015, refugees resettled in Texas combined for more than 6 billion in household income and paid about $1.6 billion in taxes, according to a 2019 report by the New American Economy. But until Abbott makes his decision Zeidan says the future of service, is just as unpredictable as the future of a refugee.
Before this month's deadline, a federal judge could decide the matter for the states. Several refugee groups sued the Trump administration in November alleging the executive order violates federal law. A hearing on the matter happened Wednesday in Maryland.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit joined Capital Tonight to discuss the lawsuit. Click the video link above to watch our full interview with Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.