Whatever gain Mr. Abbott, a Republican, may have hoped for, either in currying favor with President Trump, who has practically invited states and localities to shut their doors to refugees, or in pandering to the GOP’s most xenophobic voters, is outweighed by the dishonor he has called down upon his state.
Texas would be a culturally, financially and politically diminished place if it somehow subtracted the decades of contributions by Mexican, German, Vietnamese and other immigrants, including refugees. By his action, Mr. Abbott has turned his back not just on a few hundred refugees, whose likely long-term success and assimilation in the United States are strongly supported by experience, but on a few hundred years of Texas’s own history.
The world is awash in forcibly displaced people — more than 70 million of them, the highest number in nearly seven decades of tracking by the U.N.’s refugee agency; every day, an estimated 37,000 people are displaced and forced to flee their homes around the world. But by Mr. Abbott’s reckoning, the Lone Star State has done enough and is now all tuckered out. “Texas has carried out more than its share in assisting the refugee resettlement process,” he said.
Even if unemployment in Texas were sky-high, accepting a few hundred refugees would be the right thing to do. But the truth is that Texas, with nearly 30 million people, had among the fastest-growing economies in the United States last year, the result being a rock-bottom unemployment rate. The state’s acute labor shortage in construction, oil and other industries is regarded as a grave threat to its economy. If Texas were an independent country, its $1.6 trillion economy, roughly the size of Russia’s, would be the planet’s 10th-largest. Absorbing the refugees who were in line to be resettled in Texas this year would hardly have registered as a blip — a fact recognized by the mayors of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and other major cities in the state, who said earlier they would happily accept refugees.
Mr. Abbott’s stance puts him on a par with Mr. Trump. The president slashed the cap on refugee admissions this year to 18,000 — the lowest level since the modern program was created 40 years ago, and down from the 110,000 President Barack Obama set before leaving office. Mr. Trump then let it be known that henceforth states and localities would be required to affirm their willingness to accept new arrivals.
Mr. Abbott said he “appreciates” that other states are willing to take up the slack. True, more than 40 other governors, in addition to scores of localities, have said they are prepared to welcome refugees who, cleared and vetted by U.S. security agencies, are assisted in finding new homes by federally funded humanitarian groups. They, not the Texas governor, are acting in the spirit of true American values.