Refugee Services of Texas extends its deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those whose lives were lost in the November 13 atrocity in Paris. With the rest of the world, we share the grief of France.
Like all Texans, we support all efforts to protect people against terrorism. However, we must be careful not to single out refugees who are resettled in the United States as bad actors, which some might construe from Governor Abbott’s recent comments on the resettlement of refugees from Syria. 76% of refugees from Syria are women and children and all of them are also seeking protection from ISIS terrorists.
Texas has a great heritage of welcoming refugees who have been assisted by thousands of volunteers from faith-based organizations, civic groups and community organizations who we know will continue to help welcome refugees who qualify for resettlement under the terms of the International Declaration of Human Rights.
Refugees are the single-most scrutinized and vetted individuals who arrive to the United States. Given existing security screening procedures for refugees which typically can take over two years, we believe that the current efforts to halt Syrian resettlement will serve no purpose except to stoke fear and bigotry toward refugees—prejudice which Americans, who comprise our nation of immigrants, have historically and categorically rejected.
Every year, the United States carefully screens, documents, and resettles refugees from countries all over the world. Displaced as a result of violence or oppression, these refugees, through often harrowing circumstances, are forced to leave everything behind, including loved ones, to find safety in a foreign land. After arriving to their new home, safety and security are top priorities for refugee families as well - not to further the violence and persecution that drove them from their homes in the first place.
As a nation of immigrants, the United States celebrates a rich history of accepting security-screened immigrants and creating an environment where one can succeed through hard work and perseverance, regardless of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
n Texas, where jobs are abundant, housing available, and cost of living affordable, some refugees have found an opportunity to rebuild their lives free from persecution and violence. They are but one small group among the thousands of Americans moving to Texas each year drawn by the growing economy and the great qualities of this state that we all appreciate so much.
Refugees receive a minimal level of assistance through sponsoring agencies and must obtain employment and become fully self-sufficient, tax-paying community members within approximately six months, a daunting task for even the most talented among us. And yet family after family succeeds in this effort, becoming home-owners, colleagues, and some of the best students in our schools. Most refugees go on to become U.S. citizens.
The U.S. refugee resettlement program is vital to the safety and well-being of families at risk worldwide and the program should continue uninterrupted.
Additionally, we welcome and encourage independent reviews of the resettlement program because we see it working every day in the lives of our clients, the employers they work for and the communities across Texas they call home that are enriched by their culture and invaluable contributions.
Fortunately, Texans understand the grave and urgent need to assist refugees from around the world who flee violence and oppression. Without Texas’ open arms, many refugees we now call neighbors might not be here today.
We as Texans have the unique opportunity to demonstrate compassion and lead the nation and the world by example as we welcome newcomers to our great state.
Statement from Aaron Rippenkroeger, President & CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, Inc.
Read here to learn more about the rigorous security screening process all refugees have to go through before arriving here and how they are already the single most scrutinized group of all people who travel to the U.S.