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Gov. Abbott is wrong about refugee program

Gov. Abbott is wrong about refugee program

greece_migrants1Refugees from Syria and Iraq stand at the Athens airport Monday, waiting to be relocated to Spain. Thanassis Stavrakis AP

Originally posted on the Star-Telegram

By Eight Fort Worth faith leaders
Special to the Star-Telegram

Texas is universally known for its hospitality. Its welcoming spirit is central to its identity, essential to our character.

This ethos is reinforced every week in Sunday schools, from pulpits and by millions of religious people who filter into the workaday world to live the biblical values of loving neighbors, welcoming strangers and standing with the vulnerable.

We teach our children to sit with loners in the lunchroom. We stop to help motorists with flat tires. We deliver cookies when a family moves in next door.

We celebrate that Texas has long been a new home for immigrants. By the time Ellis Island opened as a federal immigrant processing center in 1890, hundreds of thousands of immigrants had already passed through Galveston.

Now, many local congregations and religious communities are modeling God’s compassion by partnering with recently arrived Texans. Some are refugees. Most are immigrants. All are vulnerable.

We are inspired and transformed by our work with refugees and immigrants. They are hardworking, visionary and committed to our shared life.

Studies show time and again that immigrants and refugees take the initiative to study hard, work diligently and pay their own way. They enrich our lives even as we seek to improve and include theirs.

This is why we are disturbed and confused by Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to withdraw the Texas state government from the refugee resettlement program.

As Texans and Christians, we know his announcement does not reflect our values and does not mirror the efforts we see across Fort Worth and Tarrant County to accompany the sojourner.

The decision is out of step with our city, our congregations and our institutions.

Refugees resettled in our great state are men, women and children fleeing violence, persecution and unimaginable circumstances from around the world.

They have been forced to leave behind everything they know so that they can create a better, safer future for themselves and their children.

As they rebuild their lives, they become key leaders in our community. They are doctors, teachers, business owners and community leaders.

They become our co-workers, neighbors and friends. They enrich our state, and they exemplify many of the very values Texans hold most dear.

We hope that our governor will reconsider this decision and stand with us as we stand with Texas’ newest residents.

Regardless, Texans always find a way to do the right thing, even when our government does not. People of faith will stand united to welcome refugees.

Scripture encourages us, “do not be afraid.” We will not let fear close our hearts or our homes.

It is important to recognize that the United States has the most rigorous refugee screening process in the world, including biometric checks, medical screenings, forensic testing of documents, DNA testing for family reunification cases and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials.

In the face of violence, we will show moral courage and increase our welcome for individuals fleeing persecution.

Each Sunday, our congregations pray for the world and for its people.

We will pray for our elected officials and those who seek to be. We will pray for immigrants and refugees in our midst.

And we will pray that God will use us as agents of hospitality and compassion, as tools for justice and reconciliation.

It’s who we are. It’s what we do. We are Texans.

The Rev. Karl Travis, senior pastor, First Presbyterian Church; The Rev. Dr. Tim Bruster, senior pastor, First United Methodist Church; The Rev. Dr. D. Newell Williams, president, Brite Divinity School; The Rev. Erik K.J. Gronberg, Bishop, Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; The Rev. Dr. Chuck Rolen, interim senior minister, University Christian Church; The Rev. Robyn Michalove, associate pastor for mission and family ministry, First Presbyterian Church; The Rev. Tom Plumbley, senior minister, First Christian Church; The Rev. Janet Waggoner, Canon to the Ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

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