Miami, Fla., Jan 18, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Miami has emphasized the importance of welcoming refugees, and decried the decision of Texas Governor Greg Abbott not to participate in the federal refugee resettlement program.
“Often mentored by church volunteers and given resettlement support, refugees and their family quickly integrate into American society, finding work and making a positive contribution to their adopted country,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski in a Jan. 16 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald.
“Resettlement agencies are preparing to submit proposals to the Office of Refugee Resettlement on Jan. 21 to continue this ministry of ‘welcoming the stranger.’ Catholic Charities look forward to local governments continuing welcoming refugees in those communities where we already serve.”
The archbishop noted that Catholic Charities in Florida sponsored unaccompanied Cuban minors in the 1960s, resettled refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, and has participated in the US Refugee Program since it began in 1980.
He stressed the security of the vetting policies already conducted by the United States' government. He said refugees have to meet established criteria such as fleeing religious persecution or political violence.
“Refugees are thoroughly vetted by agencies including the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, and the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, and State,” he said.
A September 2019 executive order by President Trump requires written consent from states and local entities before they resettle refugees within their boundaries.
Archbishop Wenski expressed disappointment in Abbott for discontinuing Texas' participation in the refugee resettlement program.
“Forty two governors have gone on record supporting refugee services – 19 are Republican. Only the governor of Texas decided to discontinue resettlement – apparently without much public support.”
“Florida, and refugees, would lose if we were to follow Texas’ example,” he added.
Last week, the 16 bishops in Texas described Abbott’s move as “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” They asked the governor to reconsider his decision, noting that refugees contribute a great deal to society.
“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided. 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,” the bishops said in a Jan. 10 statement.
“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien. We use this occasion to commit ourselves even more ardently to work with all people of good will, including our federal, state and local governments, to help refugees integrate and become productive members of our communities.”