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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Texas Backs Down|on Syrian Refugees

DALLAS (CN) - Texas dropped its demand to prohibit Syrian refugees from entering the state after federal officials responded with information about three Syrian families, state officials said.

Texas sued the United States and the nonprofit International Rescue Committee last Wednesday in Federal Court. It claimed the United Stated failed to "consult regularly" with it on refugee "before their placement" in Texas. The IRC was assisting three refugee families - six people - to move to Texas.

Texas claimed the IRC, at the direction of the federal government, failed to provide "even basic information" about the state's security concerns. It claimed this violated the Refugee Act of 1980.

Texas sued after the IRC shrugged off a threat of a lawsuit in a Nov. 25 letter from Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Chris Traylor, ordering the IRC to stop helping resettle Syrian refugees in the state.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state withdrew its request for a temporary restraining order, but still wants an injunction requiring federal officials to consult with the state before 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," Paxton said Friday. "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."

State officials claim Texas accepts 10 percent of all refugees in the country, more than its fair share.

Hours before Paxton's announcement, the IRC filed documents in the case, arguing that Texas "has made no showing that these refugees pose any threat" to Texans that would give it "unwarranted veto power" over federal decisions.

Twenty Syrian refugees are expected to be resettled in Texas by next week, according to IRC officials. A family of was expected in Dallas on Monday, another family of six in Houston and a third family of eight in Houston on Thursday.

IRC officials said Friday they "look forward to a swift resolution" to the lawsuit.

"Refugees are the most security-vetted population who enter the United States," the agency said in a statement. "Multiple U.S. government agencies conduct rigorous security checks, a process that typically takes between 18-24 months. Put simply, entering the United States as a refugees is the most difficult way to gain access to the country."

People admitted as refugees are granted that legal status before they enter the United States. They therefore are not "undocumented," but are legal residents from the moment they set foot on U.S. soil. As such, no state or governor has any legal power to prohibit them from crossing a state line.

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