AUSTIN, TEXAS —
Texas gave notice on Wednesday that it was withdrawing from participating in the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement program, citing security concerns after failing in federal court to halt the inflow of Syrian refugees into the state.
The Texas State Refugee Coordinator sent a letter to the agency, giving 120 days’ notice of its intention to withdraw, charging the program was riddled with problems that present security risks, Republican Governor Greg Abbott said.
"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.
Texas, a bellwether state for conservative policies, has seen other Republican-led states follow its lead in challenging the Obama administration's refugee resettlement plans in and out of the courts.
FILE - Then-Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, left, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speak about the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S., during their joint news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 8, 2015.
Officials from the Office of Refugee Resettlement were not available for comment. U.S. officials have said refugees are carefully vetted before entering.
The U.S. Justice Department has argued in court filings that the federal government sets policies for international immigration and states do not have authority to halt federal plans.
The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a leading resettlement agency, expressed disapproval of Texas' action.
"The decision to pull out of the refugee resettlement program after nearly 40 years of participation is misguided and inconsistent with that state's proud history of welcoming refugees," it said in a statement.
Since Jan. 1, 2011, there have been 1,104 Syrian refugees resettled in Texas, according to the U.S. State Department-affiliated Refugee Processing Center. That is less than the 1,610 people resettled in California and the 1,515 sent to Michigan.
The Obama administration said on Aug. 29 it would meet its goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees during the current fiscal year a month ahead of schedule and was working with Congress to increase the target by a few thousand during 2017.
U.S. admission of Syrian refugees has been a hot-button issue in the 2016 presidential race.
The civil war in Syria has led to a flood of refugees.
The United States has offered refuge to far fewer than many of its allies. Germany has taken in more than a million refugees from Syria, North Africa and Asia in the last year, while Canada admitted nearly 30,000 between November last year and May 1.