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Texas, Feds At Odds Over Refugees

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Before coming to Dallas from his home in Afghanistan, Sayed Sadat served for four years as an interpreter for the U.S. Army.

“It was my dream to come to America,” Sadat said.

To help survive when he first arrived two years ago, Sadat received money to rent an apartment, food stamps, and Medicaid as all refugees do.

“I always appreciate the United States of America,” said Sadat. “When I got here, I had only $20 in my pocket.”

But now, some refugee advocates are worried because the Texas Refugee Resettlement Program may end in January, unless the federal government approves of the state’s plan.

In a letter sent to the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Washington, DC Wednesday, Texas’ refugee coordinator Kara Crawford said, “If our application is rejected.. the Health and Human Services Commission.. will exit the Refugee Resettlement Program.”

To continue its program, Texas has told the federal government that it wants the Department of Homeland Security to certify to Congress that potential refugees won’t become a security threat once they’re in the U.S.

In a statement Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott said:

“The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Director of National Intelligence have repeatedly declared their inability to fully screen refugees from terrorist-based nations. Empathy must be balanced with security. Texas has done more than its fair share in aiding refugees, accepting more refugees than any other state between October, 2015 and March, 2016. Despite multiple requests by the State of Texas, the federal government lacks the capability or the will to distinguish the dangerous from the harmless, and Texas will not be an accomplice to such dereliction of duty to the American people.”

The Governor cited a refugee from Iraq who was arrested in Houston in January of this year for allegedly trying to provide material support to ISIS.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the Office of Refugee Resettlement, says the agency won’t be able to approve the plan submitted by Texas because ACF can’t meet the state’s demands.

That’s because ACF isn’t responsible for refugee screening.

The State Department, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the intelligence community all supervise refugee screening.

The state also told the federal government that it didn’t want to receive more refugees during the next budget year beginning October 1st, but ACF says another federal agency decides how many refugees go to each state.

If the state does drop out of the Refugee Resettlement Program, the federal government would have to find a non-profit group or groups to run the program in Texas.

While the federal budget year ends September 30, states including Texas are required to give 120 days notice if they withdraw from the federal program.

David Woodyard, President and CEO of Catholic Charities in Dallas, said he’s concerned if that were to happen, there could be a disruption in Medicaid, food stamps, possibly even vaccines that are provided.

“Without those moneys and funds in place, then where will they go for that help? What does that person do? What does that family do?”

Woodyard sayid they have a lot of questions that for now have no answers.

“As an agency that’s been welcoming strangers for 125 years, we’re certainly concerned,” said Woodyard.

Linda Hartke, President and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service criticized Governor Abbott.

“The decision to pull out of the refugee resettlement program after nearly 40 years of participation is misguided and inconsistent with that state’s proud history of welcoming refugees,” Hartke said.

Another refugee resettlement organization, HIAS, sent a letter to Governor Abbott with the signatures of 43 rabbis from Texas.

It said, “We strongly support refugee resettlement in our local communities, and we call on you to uphold the legacy of a country and state that welcomes refugees.”

Sayed Sadat said he was interviewed four times during the year it took to get approval to come here.

He said people shouldn’t be afraid of him or other refugees.

“The people who are coming to the United States of America, they have a good, positive plan for their lives,” said Sadat.  “I’m pretty sure a person who has a positive plan for their lives aren’t going to be a threat.”

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)Follow Jack on Twitter: @cbs11jack

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