Bishop Michael Rinehart
Texas communities have welcomed refugees for decades. Churches, volunteers, students, and non-profits help people fleeing persecution as they rebuild their lives and become contributors to the state’s social and economic vitality.
On Wednesday, Governor Abbott announced that the Texas state government will end its decades-long partnership with local social service agencies and the federal government to assist refugees and related vulnerable populations—a program that has an international model of success.
Even as Texas made this regrettable announcement, world leaders gathered this week at the United Nations to address the global crisis of 65 million people displaced because of war, famine, or weather.
Texas has a long record of being a leader in refugee resettlement, welcoming 62,000 refugees and 14,000 Cubans in the last 10 years. But now, based on fear and false information, some of our political leaders have turned their backs on refugees and on Texans who have displayed how big our hearts are.
Charitable organizations work with local Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, Evangelical, and Catholic churches to do the work we are called to as Christians—demonstrate radical hospitality in loving our neighbor, welcoming the stranger, and helping those who have lost everything rebuild their lives. We work alongside many people from a broad spectrum of faith traditions.
Although a federal judge dismissed the state’s lawsuit seeking to block resettlement of Syrian refugees in Texas, Gov. Abbott and Health and Human Services Commissioner Charles Smith continued their campaign against refugees by refusing to accept increased numbers of refugees and demanded certification of security vetting even though they have received information about the detailed system of checks already in place. They appear to be looking for any excuse to slam the door in the faces of the world’s most vulnerable people.
As a Texan and a Christian, it’s troubling and disheartening to know that our state leaders are proclaiming to the world that people fleeing persecution are not welcome to build lives of safety and freedom here. It is completely contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and goes against everything that we stand for as followers of God—and contrary to the actions of many Texans who are providing a warm welcome to refugees, just as they have for years.
We ask our leaders to reconsider their decision because the state has been a valuable partner in resettlement and its participation reflects our values. Even if they do not reassess, faith-based and other community organizations will continue to welcome refugees and provide services through alternative structures already in place in other states.
Governor Abbott and Commissioner Smith: Please reconsider your decision, end this campaign against refugees, and help the good people of Texas, who welcome refugees and want our state to stand proudly in support of the values we hold dear: compassion, resilience, generosity, and a place to call home.
Ultimately, we are defined by the ways we treat people when they are most in need and how we treat people when it does not benefit us. The mark of Christian consciousness is seeing those who are hurting most in this world and honoring those who cannot pay us back. Scripture emphasizes that this is particularly true for strangers and foreigners, people who are automatically at the bottom of the social ladder when they arrive. We are called to love, welcome, and serve.
Pledge to Welcome Refugees in Texas
As concerned Texans, we take the pledge to continue welcoming and supporting refugees in our state. Right now, refugee families from all over the world are fleeing violence and political persecution and are in dire need for the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety. Texans have a long tradition of welcoming the sojourner among us and we recognize that we are stronger for it. We join together to ask Governor Abbott and members of the Texas legislature to support policies that demonstrate hospitality and welcome refugees in our state.
Why is this important?
We are witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II; the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide is likely to have surpassed a record 60 million. Refugees are individuals who have been welcomed to the United States after fleeing extreme violence and persecution. As Texans, many of us have welcomed refugee families, heard their stories, and understand the moral commitment to the life-saving work of resettlement.
Texas has a proud legacy of welcoming refugees, and we recognize the valuable contributions refugees bring to our communities and economy. In Texas, refugees are taxpayers, consumers, business owners, and leaders in a broad range of industries across the state.
Our state is better because of our proud history of refugee resettlement. Refugees have played a leading role in shaping Texas into the strong and vibrant state it is today. When we welcome innocent people who have fled their homes in order to save their lives and start over in safety and freedom, we are also strengthening our local communities and making our state and country stronger.
We take the pledge to continue welcoming and supporting refugees during this critical time. We have a moral obligation to welcome families from all over the world who are fleeing unimaginable circumstances. Resettling more refugees as the world experiences the largest numbers since World War II is fundamental to who we are as Texans and places us on the right side of history.