Last week, all five members of Tarrant County’s commissioners court voted to receive refugees—despite Gov. Greg Abbott attempting to opt Texas out only days earlier.
In September of 2019, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13888, giving state and local governments the ability to opt out of refugees being resettled within their jurisdiction “to the maximum extent consistent with law.”
Months later, in January of this year, Abbott sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, invoking the opt-out clause.
“Texas has carried more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process and appreciates that other states are available to help with these efforts,” Abbott wrote.
Abbott’s decision was met with cold resistance by Tarrant County commissioners the following week.
“I think that we as a state are big enough, our hearts are big enough, to accept refugees,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks said Tuesday as he moved for a vote on the county allowing refugees. He also worried Abbott’s action may mean the end of federal funding for refugees previously resettled in Tarrant County.
“We need those federal dollars,” he added.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley expressed concern about what could happen if commissioners didn’t act now and if Abbott either changes his mind or the courts overrule him. “If we don’t do something at this point in time, it particularly could exclude Tarrant County from being eligible to receive refugees,” he said.
He added that refugees are not in the same category as illegal immigrants, a sentiment Precinct 2 Commissioner Devan Allen—who seconded Brooks’ motion—shares. “We’re listed in the state as high up there with counties that have many refugees settled here,” she said at last Tuesday’s meeting. “Refugees are legal immigrants.”
The vote passed unanimously.
Not long after Tuesday’s vote, U.S. District Judge Pete Messitte of Maryland issued a nationwide injunction against President Trump’s executive order allowing states to opt out of the resettlement program. The fate of Trump’s order, as well as Abbott’s decision to opt out, will now be decided in the courts.
Brooks and Precinct 3 Commissioner Gary Fickes are both running for re-election this year.
Concerned Tarrant County voters may contact their Tarrant County precinct commissioner and County Judge Glen Whitley.