Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent order that the state of Texas revoke the licenses of shelters that house migrant children didn’t sit well with the Biden administration, and it didn’t go over well with religious groups, either.
The Republican governor’s recent move — which was motivated by his anger with the federal government for not doing more to control the influx of migrants at the southern border — would affect 4,000 youth in more than 50 facilities funded by the U.S. government. Federal authorities responded that they would not close the shelters and are exploring legal remedies.
Religious groups that operate shelters for migrant children have expressed concern about the welfare of the youth if they are displaced and have protested the state’s interference with their faith-motivated missions to migrants.
“We urge Gov. Abbott to consider an alternative approach that allows Texas Baptist ministries to serve, fulfilling the commands of Christ.”
“It has been a hallmark of our Christian faith to care for vulnerable children for centuries,” said Katie Frugé, associate director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. “We urge Gov. Abbott to consider an alternative approach that allows Texas Baptist ministries to serve, fulfilling the commands of Christ.”
Abbott’s move, which is part of his ongoing “disaster declaration” for tighter border security, including his recent pledge to build a border wall, didn’t sit well with Frugé as a parent. “As a mother, it breaks my heart anytime precious children suffer from policies which do not put them first,” she said.
However the controversy plays out, religious groups will not be deterred from fulfilling their callings to serve “the least of these,” said Elket Rodriguez, a Texas-based advocate for immigrants with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Fellowship Southwest.
“Christians will continue to serve and witness to children in response to a higher calling and a deeper commitment that surpasses the authority of any state or government,” he said.
Even threats to the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause — which says federal laws overrule state laws — and to religious freedom must not stop the mission of faith-based organizations, he said.
“As a Christian, I believe that the security and care for children should be exempt of any political or ideological motivation. We are commanded to welcome the stranger in Matthew 25 and receive the children in Mark 9. In both instances, Jesus himself identifies as the stranger and the child,” Rodriguez said. “That is why I urge the governor to reconsider his order and not interrupt the work of many Texan Christians who display Christ’s love and care to migrant children.”
But Abbott has been clear he is firm on strengthening border security.
His May 31 proclamation claims that an ongoing increase in unlawful border crossings “poses an ongoing and imminent threat of widespread and severe damage, injury and loss of life and property, including property damage, property crime, human trafficking, violent crime, threats to public health and a violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Abbott also asserts that the White House under Biden has demonstrated an “unwillingness, ambivalence or inability to enforce federal immigration laws, to deter and stop illegal border crossings into the United States, or to meaningfully partner with Texas in pursuing these goals.”
“My calls for the federal government to do its job and secure the border have gone unanswered,” Abbott added.
The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services responded in a letter that it is “consulting the U.S. Department of Justice and intends to pursue whatever appropriate legal action is necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of the vulnerable youth that Congress entrusted to ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement).”
HHS added that Abbott’s proclamation infringes on the federal government’s “undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens. This authority rests, in part, on the national government’s constitutional power to ‘establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization.’”