(CNN) — All 16 of Texas’ Catholic bishops have issued a joint statement slamming Gov. Greg Abbott, who is Catholic, for announcing the state will bar refugees in 2020.
The bishops call Abbott’s decision “misguided” and say it “denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans.”
“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien,” the bishops say in the statement, issued Friday.
Under an executive order signed by President Trump, groups that resettle refugees must submit their plans — including agreements with states and local governments — by Jan. 21. At least 41 governors have consented to resettle refugees in their state.
But Abbott, who in 2015 unsuccessfully sued to stop the Obama administration from resettling Syrian refugees in Texas, said in a letter Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Texas has already done its part to aid migrants.
Since 2010, Texas has received more refugees than any other state — about 10% of the nationwide total, the governor said in the letter. The Pew Research Center reports that since 2002 Texas has accepted more than 88,000 refugees — more than any state but California.
“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 said.
Texas becomes the first state under Trump’s order to say it will no longer accept refugees.
John Whitman, a spokesman for Abbott, said: “No one seeking refugee status in the United States will be denied that status because of the Texas decision.”
Whitman also said Abbott’s decision does not stop refugees from moving to Texas after initially settling in another state.
But Lutheran Immigration and Refugees Service, another faith-based group, condemned Abbott’s move.
“Nearly 2,500 refugees started to rebuild their lives in Texas last year, many of whom have additional family members in harm’s way seeking to join them in safety,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the group’s president in a statement.
“These families have been torn apart by violence, war and persecution — but we never thought they would be needlessly separated by a U.S. state official.”
The Trump administration has said it intends to cap the number of refugees it will admit in the next fiscal year at 18,000 — down from 30,000 from the year before and 110,000 allowed in 2016 under President Barack Obama.