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A decision by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to withdraw from the federal refugee resettlement program prompted a quick response from Episcopal Migration Ministries on Sept. 21.

“Through the history of the United States, refugees have enriched our communities as creators, business owners, students, and friends,” the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, director of EMM, said in a statement. “Our nation, and indeed our church, has been enhanced by contributions from refugees that have sought safety and opportunity in this land. We know this to be true from decades of ministry walking with refugees and migrants.”

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Stevenson said he was saddened by violent acts in New Jersey, New York, and Minnesota. He also expressed concern that these acts might be blamed not on “a few misguided individuals” but rather on communities of refugees.

“I am also disappointed that the governor of the state of Texas has announced this day that he soon will be ending his state’s administration of the federal government’s refugee resettlement program. Fortunately, refugee service providers will work closely with local communities to ensure that a transition to another administrative service does not put refugee families at risk.”

The Texas governor’s statement said the refugee settlement program is “riddled with serious problems” that threaten the United States.

“Empathy must be balanced with security,” Abbott wrote. “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.

“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. Therefore, Texas will withdraw from the refugee resettlement program.”

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