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Texas Threatens To Withdraw From Refugee Resettlement Program

Officials said Wednesday that the state will leave the program if new security screening requirements are not met by the end of the month.

Posted on September 21, 2016, at 1:39 p.m. ET

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks in Dallas on July 8, 2016.

Texas officials sent a letter Wednesday to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement saying they plan to withdraw from the federal program on Sept. 30 if a proposed screening plan is not approved.

In August, state officials told ORR that Texas would not accept new refugees "without assurances from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence that the refugees do not pose a security threat to our citizens."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott cited the federal government's failure to properly vet refugees from "terrorist-based nations" in a statement of support for the planned withdrawal.

"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."

“Empathy must be balanced with security," Abbott said. "Texas has done more than its fair share in aiding refugees, accepting more refugees than any other state between October 2015 and March 2016. While many refugees pose no danger, some pose grave danger, like the Iraqi refugee with ties to ISIS who was arrested earlier this year after he plotted to set off bombs at two malls in Houston."

If ORR does not respond to Texas by the end of the month, the state will withdraw from the program, effective 120 days after the Sept. 30 deadline, on Jan. 31st, 2017.

Texas would be the latest in a number of states to withdraw from the federal resettlement program. Kansas and New Jersey left in April.

Withdrawing from the program, however, does not mean that refugees will stop being settled in a certain state — it just means that the federal government will work directly with local agencies to relocate refugees instead of going through the state government.

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