© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Interfaith Leaders Urge Refugee Groups To Ignore State Orders

Ryan E. Poppe
Texas Impact offices in Austin

Audio File

A prominent interfaith group is urging refugee resettlement groups in Texas to ignore a state agency order.
Edit | Remove


The Texas Health and Human Service Commission wants to be notified if groups plan to relocate Syrian refugees.  

In a letter from the commission, nonprofit resettlement groups are urged to refuse to relocate Syrian refugees. Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor also asks the groups to inform the state if they plan to violate Gov. Greg Abbott’s order banning assistance for Syrians coming into the state.


Traylor says refusing to comply with Abbott’s directive could mean a forfeiture of the federal funding the state awards to nonprofits.


Bee Morehead is the executive director for Texas Impact, a interfaith group that works with many refugee resettlement programs.


“If the state is moving in the direction of demanding that these largely faith-based organizations violate federal laws and violate the terms of their federal contracts and discriminate against people based on religion, then we seem to have the additional problem of big religious freedom issues," Morehead said.


Morehead denounced Traylor’s letter as a threat, the letter says the refugees organizations have a legal duty to cooperate with the state. 


“It’s in the very least confusing and distressing for organizations working in Texas to get demands from the State of Texas that are contrary to directives and demands from the state agency that are contrary to what they understand to be the framework of the program," Morehead explained.


Morehead is calling for a meeting of the Governor’s office with state, federal and private organizations that help resettle Syrians.  She wants a clear understanding of the law.