(JTA) — A letter signed by 43 rabbis in Texas called on the state’s governor to remain in the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
“At this moment, with the number of refugees and displaced persons at its highest in recorded history, it is more important than ever for Texas to protect and welcome refugees,” read the letter sent Wednesday, hours after Gov. Greg Abbot announced that he was withdrawing his state from the program over concerns about the lack of effective security screening of the refugees.
The withdrawal becomes effective Jan. 31.
“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,” Abbot said in a statement. “Therefore, Texas will withdraw from the refugee resettlement program. I strongly urge the federal government to completely overhaul a broken and flawed refugee program that increasingly risks American lives.”
Texas has welcomed more refugees in recent years than any other state, including the most between October 2015 and March 2016.
The rabbis’ letter was spearheaded by HIAS, a global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees. Formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the agency was founded in 1881 to help Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe.
“Since its founding, the United States has offered refuge and protection to the world’s most vulnerable,” the letter said. “Time and time again, those refugees were Jews. Whether they were welcomed to Texas by the ‘Galveston Movement’ after fleeing Czarist Russia, or whether they came later following the horrors of the Holocaust, or the persecution in Soviet Russia or Iran, our relatives and friends found safety in this country, and in the great state of Texas.
“Refugees in Texas are taxpayers, consumers, business owners, and leaders in a broad range of industries across the state. It is imperative that refugees in Texas continue to be fully welcome and supported in their new homes and that they receive the critical health and social services promised to them.”