AUSTIN — Catholic charitable and social services will continue to work with other nonprofits serving refugees in Texas, as the state government announced its intention to step away from its role.
Speaking on behalf of two dozen Catholic organizations and his fellow Catholic bishops in the state, Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth said, “Our first priority is to assist refugees and their local communities who will be directly impacted by these decisions. We continue to work within the rule of law and in cooperation with local, state, and federal authorities in this important work.”
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced Sept. 21 that it was giving notice to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services that it would no longer coordinate the distribution of federal monies for refugee services. The USDHHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement has 120 days to implement an alternative coordination mechanism using nongovernmental entities.
Catholic Charities and other organizations receive federal funding to assist approximately 14,000 refugees who live in Texas. The refugees include unaccompanied refugee minors, Cuban entrants, victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture, and Afghan and Iraqi special immigrants who are being given protection after serving U.S. missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Catholic churches and organizations provide the following services for refugees received into the United States:
Refugee Employment—helping refugees become employed and self-sufficient within 180 daysRefugee School Impact—helping refugees of school-age adjust in their first year at schools in TexasRefugee Education—helping refugees learn EnglishRefugee foster care—helping pay foster homes to care for unaccompanied refugee minors
Without this assistance to find employment and to integrate into local communities, refugees could find themselves relying on more basic assistance. With this outreach, refugees are now taxpayers, business owners and leaders in Texas’ local communities.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, National Counterterrorism Center and other intelligence agencies conduct rigorous and comprehensive security screenings on all refugees prior to their arrival in the United States.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to continue to assist them in getting back on their feet, in finding work, a new home, school for their children, and so forth,” said Bishop Olson. “We are helping refugees because we are Catholic, regardless of their ethnicity or faith. Texans are welcoming people. We intend to uphold that value, which resonates with our Church’s outreach to the vulnerable, the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow.”
The Texas Catholic Conference is the association of the Roman Catholic bishops of Texas. Through the TCC, the bishops provide a moral and social public policy voice that includes monitoring all legislation pertaining to Catholic moral and social teaching; accredit the state’s Catholic schools; and maintain records that reflect the work and the history of the Catholic Church in Texas.