Where We Stand and Why
For 45 years we have been committed to serving refugees, asylum-seekers, and immigrants because of our gospel call to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25) and our unwavering belief in the value of all human persons. During that time, we have navigated many situations. Changes to regulations, the border crisis, family separations, and more. We are not a partisan organization; our job is to serve the people we are called to serve who are coming to our diocese. We have testified on behalf of these populations at the local, state, and national levels. And we will continue to do so.
Today, our President and CEO, Michael P. Grace went to the Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court to testify in favor of Texas continuing to resettle refugees. Unfortunately, his testimony was largely symbolic as this past Friday, Governor Abbott unexpectedly announced his decision to effectively end refugee resettlement in Texas. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by this decision. But in the spirit of our long history advocating on this issue, you can read Michael’s testimony below.
What is a Refugee?
Refugees are people who have fled their home country and cannot return because of persecution, or a well-founded fear of persecution, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Refugees chosen for resettlement have obtained refugee status, which is recognized by the Department of Homeland Security and requires an extensive vetting process. Less than one percent of refugees are ever resettled to a third country.
My name is Michael Grace and I am the President and CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth. Our mission at Catholic Charities Fort Worth is to provide service to those in need, to advocate compassion and justice in the structures of society, and to call all people of good will to do the same. It is because of this mission that we have answered the call to serve those in need. It is also because of this mission that I am asking you today to continue resettling refugees in Tarrant County.
As you likely know, a refugee is someone unable to return to their country of origin due to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or for political opinion. These individuals have survived against incredible odds. Among those we’ve served, we have helped teenagers who watched their parents being murdered in front of them, mothers and fathers who have made incredibly difficult decisions to flee all they’ve known for the safety of their family, and so many others facing unimaginable horrors.
They need safety and the chance to move forward. And if their number is drawn, quite literally, they undergo the most intensive security measurements before and after they enter this country compared to any other demographic. These individuals do not get to choose which country or state they come to. But those that get placed in Texas consider it a Godsend. Once here, they build careers, purchase homes, gain citizenship, and become vital members of the community.
Time and time again, we have seen refugees establish businesses stimulating the economy, become Priests who lead our parishes, or are elected to political office. We are proud of the resiliency and incredible perseverance of these families. Many of the children that arrive are enrolled into our public schools and not only graduate within a timely manner, but do so with honors. These children who have witnessed horrors we cannot even begin to imagine, arrive in a new country, integrate into a new culture, learn a brand new language and thrive. They go on to college, they build a life we would be proud of for our own children, and they contribute to the grit and the freedom embedded in the American dream.
They do so because they want it. They want a future without fear of persecution, of their homes being burned or taken. One without fear of civil war and starvation, of being able to farm or work to pay for their next meal. They want a place to rest safely, without needing to keep vigil overnight of their loved ones. And we are proud to be a part of their story. And they are proud to call Tarrant County and Texas, HOME.
It is important to note that Texas will indeed continue to receive refugees. Many will come here after being resettled in surrounding states, something we refer to as secondary migration. However, without consent for resettlement, agencies like ours will no longer be able to focus on helping families reach self-sufficiency and stability, and instead will be forced to support initial resettlement efforts. We will no longer be able to walk alongside and help them accomplish many of the goals mentioned above, and instead we will see many turning to public benefits and other means of assistance. Withholding consent means restricting our ability to help those coming to Texas find jobs, buy homes, create businesses and succeed in school. Surely this is clearly not the ideal climate to welcome someone into.
The challenges will be mighty, many I expect we can’t predict at this time. But we will continue to live out our mission. We will continue to serve the needy, feed the poor, and welcome the stranger. We believe it is our duty and our privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We will continue to open our arms and hearts to those that are being persecuted. We ask that you continue to do the same.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any additional thoughts or questions. Thank you for your support of refugees.
We ask for your prayers for all involved and we will continue to update as needed. We also stand in solidarity with Bishop Michael Olson’s statement, which you can find here.