Texas lawmakers are considering legislation that would set up a state licensing program for nonprofits that help settle refugees in the state. Senate Republicans are concerned about being left out of the loop when it comes to the city where these families are being placed by the federal government.
The Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee is considering options.
Committee Chair Georgetown Republican Sen. Charles Schwertner on Thursday discussed the possibility of creating a third layer of regulation so that the state has more involvement in the process.
“The State of Texas does not license resettlement agencies either, we license child placement agencies because of the concern of the vulnerabilities of those populations but not resettlement agencies which have a very vulnerable population as well," Schwertner said.
Refugee Services of Texas CEO Aaron Rippenkroeger said groups like his and their clients are already highly regulated and vetted by the federal government and other international agencies.
“We were monitored 30 times last year by different entities for different programs, whether licensing would add something more, I don’t know," Rippenkroeger explained.
Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole told the committee that crime and threats of terrorism aren’t his city’s concern.
“To the question of security, there are a few people running around the country saying they barely made it out of Amarillo without being raped and pillaged by the refugees, that’s total hogwash. Our crime is down, our refugees are not a crime problem. It’s simply a matter of dissemination and settling them in more areas," Harpole told the committee.
Harpole said doctors, emergency rooms and schools in Amarillo have to bear the cost of paying for interpreter services, which he says they are not reimbursed by the federal government.
Federal refugee coordinators said that more than 70 percent of the refugees relocated to Texas are sent because they already have family living in the state.