TEXAS -- Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo Friday saying Texas “cannot consent to initial refugee resettlement” in 2020.

Abbott cited concerns about border security in choosing to opt out of the program writing that Texas can’t accept additional refugees this year because Congress has left the state “to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.”

Texas has historically been a top state for refugee resettlement and Abbott faced pressure to remain in the federal program from leaders of the state’s largest cities and refugee organizations.

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State governors have until January 21 to tell the State Department if they will continue participating in the refugee resettlement program. The deadline comes after Trump signed an executive order in September requiring state and local governments to opt in. So far, 42 other states have agreed to remain in the program.

“This decision does not deny any refugee access to the United States,” Gov. Abbott wrote in his letter. “Nor does it preclude a refugee from later coming to Texas after initially settling in another state.”

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.

Statement from Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Abhi Rahman: 

“Texas means friends. We are the friendship state. We help our neighbors. That’s what we do. Refugees are our neighbors. After suffering violence, war, and persecution, they filled out the necessary paperwork and we’re deemed eligible to move in. 

“Refugees are not political pawns and bargaining chips to advance anti-immigrant policies. We cannot let Republican racism overpower our love and compassion for our brothers and sisters fleeing violence across the world. Republican Governor Greg Abbott is in complete opposition to our Texas values by refusing to let refugees into our great state. Governor Abbott’s decision will lead to more innocent people dying.

“We should be welcoming refugees to Texas, instead of ending a program that saves lives.”