Texas Gov. Greg Abbott chooses his taxpayers and truth over special interests and virtue-signaling

· January 13, 2020  
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Greg Abbott speaks from podium
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has a lot of chutzpah. He actually thinks his job is to put the interests of his own taxpayers ahead of an endless line of potential impoverished immigrants from violent countries after his state has experienced record legal and illegal immigration in recent years. What a novel idea! He had the nerve to express the Founders’ view on immigration – that it should factor the interests of Americans and those already here before those of foreign nationals.

On Friday, Greg Abbott became the only Republican governor to actually adopt the position of the Republican platform as championed by President Trump and reject the refugee resettlement scam for this coming year. Every major liberal newspaper in Texas rushed to condemn him as heartless and evil, while some “conservative” commentators hurried to join the virtue-signaling.

The reality is that these commentators need a little more virtue and a little less signaling. True virtue begins with understanding the foundation of the issue at hand before commenting on it. The entire concept of refugee resettlement is outdated and only continues to line the pockets of private contractors at the expense of the taxpayer.

The true motivation: Are they really refugees as originally understood under the law?

As far back as 2000, David M. Robinson, a former acting director of the refugee bureau in the State Department, described the insidious power of the contractors as follows: “The agencies form a single body [that] wields enormous influence over the Administration’s refugee admissions policy. It lobbies the hill effectively to increase the number of refugees admitted for permanent resettlement each year and at the same time provides overseas processing for admissions under contract to the State Department. In fact, the federal government provides about ninety percent of its collective budget. If there is a conflict of interest, it is never mentioned. [Its] solution to every refugee crisis is simplistic and the same: increase the number of admissions to the United States without regard to budgets or competing foreign policy considerations.”

This is why the program has brought in impoverished individuals from third world countries in recent years, as opposed to past years when we brought in educated people fleeing communism. It’s not about individualized, one-sided persecutions. Since 2004, we’ve admitted 51,564 Sunni refugees and 36,764 Shia refugees from Iraq. Well, who is the persecutor and who is the persecuted? Iraq is full of Sunni and Shiite jihadist elements, yet each group is able to claim refugee status if they can show they are persecuted based on their minority status in a given neighborhood.

Further, elements of both Sunni and Shia groups have been admitted to places like Bowling Green, Kentucky, and there are now stories of violence erupting between them! We have brought the sectarian problems to our shores by admitting immigrants not based on their love for our values or their status as a persecuted minority, but based on the sectarian violence itself.

The fiscal burden

Last week, the Denver Post inadvertently let the cat out of the bag concerning the poverty of these refugees. The article was trying to make people feel guilty, but at the same time it blew the cover off the lie that most modern refugees are not a drain on local resources. While chronicling the plight of recent refugees from countries like Congo in the East Colfax neighborhood of Denver, the article notes how “48% of children in the East Colfax neighborhood live in poverty, and 80% of third-graders aren’t up to par in their reading.” They profile some of the homeless and impoverished and how “Muslim women who fled rural Myanmar, formerly Burma, to a UN refugee camp in Thailand — and who now in Denver lack transport to supermarkets — flocked to the cardboard boxes of potatoes and greens set out in a parking lot.”

I thought these people were not only net contributors but also job creators? Indeed, a recent study shows that refugee resettlement costs taxpayers $1.8 billion a year, and that doesn’t include the secondary low-skilled migration spawned by the resettlement. The reality is that this is the logical outcome of a program designed to line the pockets of private contractors by bringing in individuals from impoverished countries rather than those facing one-sided political or religious persecution.

While those who virtue-signal for open borders live in an alternative reality, Gov. Abbott is living in this world. And the reality is that, with notable exceptions, the majority of our legal and illegal immigration of all categories has been low-skilled. Those numbers are at record highs. Texas has taken in a record number of illegal immigrants, who are refugees from our hemisphere in all but name. Texas has been the destination for roughly 110,000 legal immigrants every single year, many below the poverty level. Does it make sense to bring in more people from one specific program to placate taxpayer-funded contractors and business interests who want cheap labor at the expense of the rest of his citizens?

Some are criticizing Abbott’s concern over the fiscal burden by diminishing the issue to just a few thousand people in such a big state of 30 million. That is an old trick of theirs – to isolate one year’s immigration numbers from one category of immigration while ignoring the record numbers the state has taken in over the past 10 years and the record levels of the other humanitarian categories. For example, last year set a record for the resettlement of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) from Central America, who are resettled the same way other refugees are, to the benefit of the same contractors. Nationwide, over 72,000 UACs were resettled as refugees in fiscal year 2019. Texas took in nearly 10,000, more than any other state, and is tracking on roughly the same level this year. So yes, Trump has lowered the refugee intake, but UAC refugees are now equivalent to the traditional annual refugee intake. As I’ve noted in my series on UACs, many of them have gone on to join violent gangs like MS-13 and 18th Street.

Thus, the suggestion that Abbott shouldn’t conflate illegal immigration with refugees is absurd, because many illegal alien teens are resettled as refugees. Moreover, the same principle applies – that they are largely impoverished with volatile backgrounds. If Texas must deal with the refugee flow from our own hemisphere, it makes no sense to choose to bring in more from the Eastern Hemisphere – whatever name you choose to describe them.

Colonizing and transforming individual communities

Also, the notion that this is just a matter of a few thousand refugees scattered about in a state the size of Texas misses a few key points.

First, the numbers have been very high until now and will undoubtedly return to record highs the first time a non-Trump Republican or a Democrat becomes president again. Democrats are already promising to raise the cap to new records in order to make up “lost ground.” Now is the time to slow down the numbers.

More importantly, looking at refugee resettlement statewide misses the point of the highly concentrated impact on small to midsize cities. Contractors do not take concentration and impact into consideration, as statute requires. It’s not like they evenly divide and distribute individual refugees throughout the 254 counties of Texas or keep them predominantly in big cities like Houston. They target a particular area, often based on special interest desires for cheap labor in agricultural industries, and then resettle large numbers as groups. Once they have a foothold in that city or county, in the ensuing years they bring in more refugees from the same countries to settle in the same area. Between the derivative categories of refugees and the general family-based visa system, aka chain migration, within a decade or so, that town is transformed. This is how over 120 languages are now spoken in Nashville public schools and how there is now a greater percentage of “English language learners” in Portland, Maine, than in New York City schools!

Let’s take a city like Amarillo, Texas, for example. It is a relatively small city in the heartland of our country. But it also has meatpacking plants looking for the cheapest labor they can get. In recent years, without any input from the locals or state officials, the federal government – at the behest of private taxpayer-funded contractors – has resettled a couple thousand refugees from the most radically divergent cultures. Since 2002, according to the WRAPS State Department database, Amarillo has been sent 352 refugees from Congo, 718 from Iran, 396 from Iraq, and 605 from Somalia. There are no numbers on the secondary migration, but refugees are all on a fast track to citizenship, after which they can bring in family members and commence the chain of migration from the same countries of origin. Amarillo has the most refugees per capita of any city in Texas.

In December 2014, even the director of Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle penned an op-ed in the Amarillo Globe-News warning that it became “clear that the increasing rate of resettlement needed to slow down significantly to allow the community to catch up with challenges brought about by dramatic demographic changes.”

“In August 2011, I began in my role as executive director at CFS [Catholic Family Services],” wrote Nancy Koons, who worked on resettlement for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, one of the 9 resettlement contractors. “Residing out of the Amarillo area for six years, I was unaware of the dramatic increase in refugee resettlement, languages and cultures, and consequently the impact on the community — particularly the schools.”

Statute clearly directs the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to “insure that a refugee is not initially placed or resettled in an area highly impacted by the presence of refugees or comparable populations.” When making this determination, the director of the ORR is supposed to take into account “the proportion of refugees and comparable entrants in the population in the area,” “the availability of employment opportunities, affordable housing, and public and private resources” and “the likelihood of refugees placed in the area becoming self-sufficient and free from long-term dependence on public assistance.” (Sec. 412. of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, 8 U.S.C. 1522.)

However, a program that has been given over to private contractors working with other special interests is not exactly going to take these factors into account. Thankfully for Texans, there is now a governor willing to factor Texas taxpayers into the most vital decisions affecting the future of their communities.

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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.