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Texas Refugee Ban: Jesuits Speak Out

BY ISN STAFF | January 17, 2020

Three Jesuit superiors, leaders of their local Jesuit communities in Texas, sent a letter on Thursday, January 16 to Texas Governor Greg Abbott denouncing his decision to ban refugees from the state.


Gov. Greg Abbott [LBJ Library photo by Jay Godwin via Flickr]

On Friday, January 10, Texas became the first U.S. state to block refugee resettlement under President Trump’s September executive order requiring written consent from state and local jurisdictions prior to refugee resettlement. Texas has been a significant location for refugee resettlement in recent years.  A January 15 federal ruling temporarily halted the executive order, which was found to likely be “unlawful” and “does not appear to serve the overall public interest.” After the ruling, the bishops of Texas’ Catholic dioceses released a statement in support of the temporary injunction.

Citing the Jesuit order’s presence in Texas for over a century and the religious order’s commitment since 1980 to accompanying and serving refugees through Jesuit Refugee Service in the U.S. and internationally, the three Jesuit superiors wrote: “We feel compelled to express our strong disagreement with your letter to Secretary Pompeo of 10 January about ending refugee resettlement programs in Texas. We think the complaint that Texas is being called on to do more than its share in resettlement lacks proper perspective.” 

The letter goes on to compare refugee resettlement numbers in Texas—16,700 in the past three years and an additional 80,000 in the past 18 years—to that of Uganda. That country is one-third of the size of Texas with a larger population and ranks 200th in the world in Gross Domestic Product, and is currently sheltering over 1.16 million refugees. 

Refugee ban

“Resettlement programs are meant to reduce the burden borne by poor countries like Uganda as an expression of international solidarity,” continues the letter. “Texas, we feel, should continue to welcome resettled refugees and be proud that we are taking more than other states.” 

The letter was signed by Rev. Walter T. Sidney, S.J., rector of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Jesuit Community in Dallas, Rev. Timothy McMahon, S.J., superior of Sacred Heart Jesuit Community in El Paso, and Rev. Anthony Rauschuber, S.J., superior of the Houston Jesuit Community. 

The Jesuit order has been vocal in advocating for immigrants and refugees. In September to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, provincials from the six U.S./Canadian Jesuit provinces and Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, released a letter inviting the Jesuit network to expand advocacy efforts on behalf of those who migrate. The letter was accompanied by a call to action and website dedicated to immigration-related solidarity and advocacy. Following an October meeting of the Jesuit provincials with the Department of Homeland Security denouncing the harsh policies such as Remain in Mexico and family detention, the Jesuit Conference released a video in advance of January’s 2020 National Migration Week, reaffirming the commitment of Jesuit leaders to continue advocacy work to uphold the dignity and rights of those who migrate. 

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