Omar responds after Texas uses Trump executive order to opt out of refugee program

Texas became the first state to announce it will opt out of a federal refugee resettlement program in 2020 – a decision made possible by an executive order by President Trump.

The move drew a reaction from U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat and Somali immigrant who earlier in the week decried a similar move by county-level officials in her home state of Minnesota that was also facilitated by Trump's order.

In a letter Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, argued that his state has already done “more than its fair share” in resettling refugees and “continues to have to deal with the consequences of an immigration system that Congress has failed to fix.”

OMAR SOUNDS OFF AFTER MINNESOTA COUNTY BANS REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT – AIDED BY TRUMP EXECUTIVE ORDER

Since the 2010 fiscal year, “more refugees have been received in Texas than in any other state” and in the past decade roughly 10 percent of all refugees resettled in the U.S. have been placed in Texas, Abbott wrote.

In addition, he pointed out that, according to federal numbers, about 100,000 migrants have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas since May 2018. He also stated that in the 2018 fiscal year, Border Patrol agents apprehended migrants from China, Iran, Kenya, Russia and Tonga.

In response, Omar tweeted words from  "The New Colossus," the 1883 sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus that is mounted inside the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal.

“With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,’” Omar quoted.

She then wrote, “These are the words that welcomed me and millions of refugees. I still believe in those values. We shall overcome.”

Omar has been vocal on the issue since Beltrami County, Minn., voted earlier this week to ban refugee resettlement, with some native Minnesotans citing rising crime rates and others claiming a lack of resources in the budget.

Last September, Trump signed an executive order requiring that resettlement agencies get written consent from state and local officials in any jurisdiction where they want to help resettle refugees beyond June 2020. The president cut the number of refugees allowed into the country for the 2020 fiscal year to a historic low of 18,000. About 30,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S. during the previous fiscal year.

Texas has large refugee populations in several of its cities and has long been a leader in settling refugees, taking in more than any other state during the 2018 governmental fiscal year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Since the 2002 fiscal year, Texas has resettled an estimated 88,300 refugees, second only to California, according to the Pew Research Center.

“At this time, the state and non-profit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless – all Texans,” Abbott wrote, noting that his decision to opt-out of the initial refugee resettlement program for the 2020 fiscal year does not deny any refugee access to the U.S. and does not prevent any refugee from later coming to Texas after initially settling in another state.

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The mayors of major Texas metropolitan areas, including San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, which all have seen recent growing Democratic leadership, sent the federal government letters saying they remain willing to welcome refugees despite the state action.

“Regardless of where someone is from, who they are or what they believe, there is a home for them in Houston,” Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Our welcoming spirit has led to our city becoming the national leader in refugee resettlement.”

Governors in 42 other states have said they will consent to allowing in more refugees, according to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which works with local agencies throughout the U.S. to resettle refugees. The governors not yet on the record are all Republicans -- from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina and Wyoming.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.