AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Health and Human Services Commission sent a letter to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, asking the federal office to approve the state plan.
Texas’ plan calls for extra safeguards to allowing refugees into Texas. It requires the federal government to give 21 days notice before sending a refugee to Texas. The plan also says the state will only accept a refugee if the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence can certify that person does not pose a terror threat.
In addition, the state plan lets the state reject refugees if the governor believes they have not been adequately screened.
Dr. Banafsheh Madaninejad, who grew up in Iran and came to the United States 25 years ago, believes those standards are unrealistic.
“What Governor Abbott is referring to is a standard that can’t possibly be achieved,” said Madaninejad.
Madaninejad teaches religion and philosophy at Southwestern University in Georgetown. Dr. Phil Hopkins is also a philosophy professor at the college.
“I can’t think of any process where by we can guarantee that someone will not decide at some point to harm someone else,” explains Hopkins.
Both professors agree there needs to be a proper screening process, but not so strict that we’re turning away refugees who truly need help.
“If we set the bar that impossibly high, who gets to count as people who need our care and deserve our care and deserve our help — nobody,” said Dr. Hopkins.
The State of Texas sees it differently, not taking chances to keep Americans safe.
Currently, a refugee must first apply through the United Nations. Then, security officials with the State Department process the applications, including background checks and biometric screenings. This process can take up to two years. If refugees pass those checks, they’re placed with one of nine national resettlement organizations. Local non-profits contracted by the state get federal money to help the refugees learn English, find jobs, and find schools for their children.
Texas takes in more refugees than any other state. Last year Texas took in more than 7,600 refugees, which is nearly 11 percent of the total coming to the country.
The state says if the government does not respond to its plan by the end of the month, they will pull out of the Refugee Resettlement Program, stopping services in January.