DALLAS — When Gov. Greg Abbott, backed by a Trump Administration decision, announced Texas would no longer participate in the federal refugee resettlement program, Dr. Samira Page was among a chorus of refugee supporters who became concerned.
"We are serving refugees from 16 different countries," she said of her now decade-old work as founder and executive director of Gateway of Grace, non-profit empowering North Texas churches to assist refugees.
She arrived in Dallas as a refugee 22 years ago, fleeing her home and leaving family behind in Iran.
"We got here at 7 a.m. at a downtown bus station, and a cab driver took us to a Motel 6," she said of the day she arrived in Dallas and was helped from day-one by members of a Christian church who provided her with her first apartment.
She converted to Christianity, is now an Episcopalian minister, and in addition to helping guide a number of educational and fundraising efforts for refugees, also at Gaston Christian Center leads the only formal Farsi speaking Christian church in the U.S, her congregation comprised of previously persecuted Christians.
"When you have fled your country, you always are a refugee because you know you cannot go back. You know you cannot see your family. And that's a difficult thing," she said in reference to members of her own family still in Iran.
Since 2002, Texas has resettled an estimated 88,300 refugees, second only to California, according to the Pew Research Center. Gov. Abbott is so far the only governor to propose stopping participation completely in the federal resettlement program for refugees.
Texas "has been left by Congress to deal with disproportionate migration issues resulting from a broken federal immigration system," he wrote stating that Texas has done "more than its share."
He said that the state and non-profits should focus on "those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless — indeed, all Texans."
But by midweek, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte of Maryland temporarily blocked the executive order that required governors and local officials to agree in writing to accept refugees.
In granting a temporary injunction he ruled the refugee agencies did adequately demonstrate that the administration order is unlawful because it assumed authority not granted by the Refugee Act of 1980, improperly putting state and local officials in charge of what is an "exclusively federal" power, Messitte wrote.
"Giving states and local governments the power to consent to the resettlement of refugees — which is to say veto power to determine whether refugees will be received in their midst — flies in the face of clear congressional intent," Messitte wrote.
"We welcome the Maryland judge who put in a temporary injunction," said Faizan Syed the executive director of the DFW chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Syed, raised primarily in St. Louis, Missouri, was brought to the United States by his parents from Pakistan when he was 4 years old.
"I am a beneficiary of this country welcoming immigrants and refugees. And my family they've come here they've built a life here they work hard they pay taxes, and they do all of these things to make themselves American and to give back to the country that they came in. And that's what makes America strong."
"Welcoming refugees is something that is in the DNA of Christianity," Samira Page said in an appeal to Gov. Abbott. "So we really count on Governor Abbott to do the Christian thing and we also pray for him to be an instrument of God in this case."
The instrument, for now, is the legal system as refugee agencies wait for a final determination.