GHIC hosts US Senate Candidate Forum

Democrats campaigning for U.S. Senate blast Abbott on refugees

By Jonathan Tilove

Posted Jan 11, 2020 in the Statesman

Texas’ Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, who gathered Saturday for a joint forum at a Houston church, joined in condemning Gov. Greg Abbott for becoming the first in the nation to reject the resettlement of refugees in the state under a Trump administration order in September that required states and municipalities to give written consent before allowing in refugees.

Former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston noted, as Abbott has, that Texas resettles more refugees than any state in the nation, but he said Abbott’s conclusion that Texas had already done more than its fair share was not in Texas’ best interest.

Instead, Bell said, “Gov. Abbott decided to give our state a giant black eye.”

“We see that Gov. Abbott is choosing to play politics with the lives of refugees, people fleeing violence or real suffering,” said Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, an activist who co-founded the Workers Defense Project and Jolt, an organization that works to increase voting by young Latinos.

Grassroots activist Sema Hernandez of Pasadena, who finished second to then-U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the 2018 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, said Abbott’s refusal to accept additional refugees was particularly unseemly because so many of those refugees were, she said, a direct result of U.S. military and economic policies.

“This is the damage we have inflicted in over four decades, 40 years, of neoliberal policies,” Hernandez said.

Annie Garcia of Houston, the founder of the nonprofit OpHeart, which supports children born with life-threatening illnesses, said Abbott’s action “makes us a bad actor on a global scale.”

In announcing his decision, Abbott said, “Texas has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system.”

State Sen. Royce West of Dallas said the answer is not to close the door on new refugees but to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

“How can we have an immigration policy where we’re taking kids and putting them in cages,” West said.

Front-runner Hegar absent

The forum at Green House International Church in Houston was sponsored by six Houston-area Democratic clubs.

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