Jesuit Superiors Write to Texas Governor Re: Refugee Ban

The three Jesuit superiors in the State of Texas sent the following letter this morning via fax and email to Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, urging him to reconsider his decision to prohibit refugee settlement in Texas in the coming year. 

Dear Governor Abbott, 

We are the religious superiors of the Jesuit (Society of Jesus) Communities living and working in Texas. The Institutions in which we work include High Schools, Retreat Houses, and Parishes. We have been present in Texas for well over a century. The Jesuits, through our Jesuit Refugee Services, have since 1980 accompanied and served hundreds of thousands of refugees in the United States and in 56 countries worldwide by providing pastoral care, education, and economic self-sufficiency programs.

Pope Francis has reminded us many times that Christians have a moral obligation to show God's care for all those who are marginalized, especially migrants and refugees. During his most recent Christmas message, Pope Francis called the attention of Catholics around the world to the plight of refugees - "It is injustice that makes them cross deserts and seas that become cemeteries. It is injustice that forces them to endure unspeakable forms of abuse, enslavement of every kind and torture in inhumane detention camps." Clearly the Catholic faith that we share with you calls us to exercise compassion and hospitality for refugees and migrants.

For this reason, we feel compelled to express our strong disagreement with your letter to Secretary Pompeo of 10 January about ending resettlement programs in Texas. We think that the complaint that Texas is being called on to do more than its share in resettlement lacks proper perspective. We have seen information about the numbers of refugees resettled here, in one account 16,700 over the past three years, in another over 80,000 in the past 18 years and we take note of these figures.

On the other hand, we would like to draw your attention to the African Country of Uganda, which has a land mass about one third that of Texas (76,062 sq. miles versus 268,820 sq. miles), a larger population (42.86 million versus 28.99 million), is a lesser developed country ranking 200th in the world in Gross Domestic Product ($2,400 per capita), yet, nonetheless, is currently sheltering over 1.16 million refugees, 848,000 of whom are from South Sudan.

Resettlement programs are meant to reduce the burden borne by poor countries like Uganda as an expression of international solidarity. Texas, we feel, should continue to welcome resettled refugees and be proud that we are taking more than other states. We strongly urge you to reconsider the decision that you announced on January 10.

In Christ,

Reverend Walter T. Sidney, SJ
Rector, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Jesuit Community

Reverend Anthony Rauschuber, SJ
Superior, Houston Jesuit Community

Reverend Timothy McMahon, SJ
Superior, Sacred Heart Jesuit Community

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Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House
Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House, located in Grand Coteau, La., has provided a beautiful setting for retreats since 1938.