United States

Texas Backs Off Bid to Block Syrian Refugees

Court docs show 21 refugees expected to be resettled in Dallas, Houston.

The state of Texas has withdrawn a request for temporary restraining order after the federal government provided requested information about the first group of refugees set to arrive in Texas.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Friday the information came after Texas' lawsuit, but that the state "continues to seek an injunction requiring the federal government to comply with its statutory duty to consult with Texas in advance of resettling refugees."

"Texas shouldn't have to go to court to require Washington to comply with federal law regarding its duties to consult with Texas in advance," said Attorney General Ken Paxton via email. "Our state will continue legal proceedings to ensure we get the information necessary to adequately protect the safety of Texas residents. While we remain concerned about the federal government's overall refugee vetting process, we must ensure that Texas has the seat at the table that the Refugee Act requires."

The U.S. government and an international humanitarian organization on Friday asked a judge to reject attempts by Texas to block Syrian refugees from resettling in the state, and revealed that the number expected to arrive in the state within a week has more than doubled.

Court documents show that 21 Syrian refugees are scheduled to be resettled in Dallas and Houston by Thursday. Many of them are children younger than 13 and include grandparents and a single woman hoping to reunite with her mother who is already in Texas.

The federal government and the nonprofit International Rescue Committee filed separate briefs Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The filings come after the Texas Health and Human Services Commission sought an injunction in Dallas on Wednesday seeking to stop IRC from bringing six Syrians to the city, citing security concerns.

The IRC had hoped to settle six Syrian refugees with relatives in Dallas by Friday, and another family of four soon after.

According to the court filings, 12 refugees are now expected to arrive Monday; six in Dallas and six and Houston. Nine others are scheduled to arrive in Houston on Thursday. It is not clear if the International Rescue Committee will bring all the refugees.

Federal officials called Texas' fears over security unfounded and said siding with Texas would harm national interests that are determined by President Barack Obama.

Texas "has made no showing that these refugees pose any threat, much less an imminent one, to the safety or security of Texas residents or any other Americans," the Obama administration told the court. The federal government insists refugee vetting is thorough and can take up to two years.

Texas is the first U.S. state to ask a federal court to block the arrival of Syrian refugees following the deadly attacks in Paris in November, and its lawsuit comes two weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered resettlement organizations in Texas to stop accepting Syrian refugees due to security concerns.

The White House has said states do not have the legal authority to block refugee placement and that would-be refugees undergo a rigorous vetting.

The refugees coming to Dallas include two children ages 3 and 6; their parents and grandparents. A second family scheduled to arrive in Houston, also on Monday, are four children aged from 2 to 13 years and their parents, according to court filings.

On Dec. 10, a Syrian family of eight is scheduled to be resettled in Houston, in addition to a 26-year-old woman whose mother already resides in the area.

In a statement announcing its own federal court filing, the International Rescue Committee reiterated its opposition to the Texas lawsuit.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Friday the state “continues to seek an injunction requiring the federal government to comply with its statutory duty to consult with Texas in advance of resettling refugees.”

"We are confident that the IRC has always acted in accordance with the law when it comes to our work to assist refugees who have been given sanctuary in Texas," the IRC statement said. "We have had a strong and collaborative relationship with the State for the past 40 years to the benefit of refugees and local communities."

According to the Attorney General's office, Texas takes roughly 10 percent of the refugees resettled in the United States and partners with local volunteer agencies to help refugees transition to Texas and pay associated costs.

Anne Marie Weiss-Armush, President and Founder of DFW International Community Alliance, one of the organizations that helps refugees once they arrived in Texas siad it's no surprise Abbottt withdrew legal action because of the Refugee Act of 1980.

"The division of powers between the federal government and the states has been reviewed and defined many times: both by the Supreme Court and in the battles of our Civil War. So Governor Abbott had no grounds to interfere in a purely federal matter," Weiss-Armush wrote. "We welcome refugees from Syria and other nations to the land 'rule of law' is one of our most treasured freedoms."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us