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Texas Drops Appeal|in Fight Over Refugees

DALLAS (CN) — One week after quitting the federal refugee settlement program, Texas dropped its appeal of a federal judge's dismissal of its lawsuit demanding more input on settlement of Syrian refugees.

Texas asked the Fifth Circuit to dismiss the appeal Friday.

In June, U.S. District Judge David Godbey in Dallas dismissed the state's lawsuit against the United States and nonprofit International Rescue Committee.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission sued in late 2015, claiming federal officials' failure to consult with the state about incoming Syrian refugees violates the Refugee Act.

Godbey was not persuaded, finding that individual states cannot set immigration policy.

"The court determines that the commission lacks a cause of action to enforce the Refugee Act's advance consultation requirement," Godbey ruled. "The court finds no indication that Congress affirmatively contemplated private enforcement by states when it passed the Refugee Act."

The obscure refugee program became a hot political issue after the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

Donno Duvin, the International Rescue Committee's executive director, cheered Texas' withdrawal of its appeal.

"Attorney General [Ken] Paxton's decision reinforces the fact that refugee resettlement in Texas is perfectly lawful," she said in a statement. "The move also aligns with what's actually happening in Texas communities, where refugees typically are warmly welcomed and supported as they rebuild their lives here."

The Dallas-based International Rescue Committee was represented by attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, the National Immigration Law Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Susman Godfrey.

The ACLU said Friday that Paxton's decision to drop the case came days after the Seventh Circuit ruled in a separate case that Indiana's blocking of Syrian refugees violated the Equal Protection Clause.

Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas said the state apparently "saw the writing on the wall."

"Federal courts have unanimously rejected bids by some states to discriminate based on a refugee's nationality as contrary to the Equal Protection Clause," she said in a statement. "We call upon Texas to stop its pursuit of anti-refugee policies that are not only illegal, but contrary to fundamental American values of welcoming people regardless of nationality, race or religion and providing safe haven for families fleeing violence and war."

Texas followed through on its threats to withdraw from the refugee program on Sept. 30. Gov. Greg Abbott had demanded for months that federal officials approve his plan to accept only accept refugees who are "fully vetted" and determined not to be a security threat.

Texas has taken in more than 1,100 Syrian refugees since 2011, behind only California and Michigan, according to the federal Refugee Processing Center.

Texas' withdrawal from the program will not stop refugees from settling in the state, as the federal government will appoint a nonprofit to administer the program in the state.

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