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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Texas Plan to Block Syrian Refugees Upended

DALLAS (CN) - Texas cannot stop Syrian refugees from entering and living in the state because it's a political issue that is not up to the states or federal courts, a federal judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge David Godbey rejected Texas' request for a preliminary injunction against the federal government and the International Rescue Committee on Monday evening.

Texas sued the United States and the IRC in December, claiming Washington violated the Refugee Act of 1980 by failing to "consult regularly" with state and local governments before placing refugees.

But Godbey concluded there is "no substantial threat of irreparable injury" in allowing refugees to live in Texas. He cited Texas' declaration, through a terrorism expert, that Syrian refugees pose a greater risk than other refugees.

"He offers no evidence, however, from which the court could determine that the risk is substantial," Godbey wrote in the 11-page order. "He establishes the arrests and/or indictment of two refugees on terrorism charges. Of course, the arrest or indictment of a defendant is not evidence of guilt."

While acknowledging that it would be "foolish" to deny that Syrian refugees pose "some risk," Godbey said the federal executive branch is tasked with "assessing and mitigating" such a risk - not the federal courts or states.

"It is certainly possible that a Syrian refugee resettled in Texas could commit a terrorist act, which would be tragic," Godbey wrote. "The court, however, cannot interfere with the executive's discharge of its foreign affairs and national security duties based on a possibility of harm, but only on a proper showing of substantial threat of irreparable injury and a legal right to relief."

Godbey wrote that Texas, "perhaps the reddest of red states," is "somewhat ironically" asking the court to "stick its judicial nose into this political morass" without statutory authority. "Finding no such authorization, this court will leave resolution of these difficult issues to the political process."

Godbey's order came as a surprise to no one. States have extremely limited, if any, legal power to control immigration, and refugees are customarily granted legal status before they enter the United States. They are therefore not "undocumented" at any time from the moment they set on U.S. soil, and no state has the power to prevent legal U.S. residents from entering it.

The ruling comes two months after Godbey rejected Texas' request for a temporary restraining order. He dismissed the state's evidence at the time as "largely speculative hearsay," saying he "has no institutional competency to assess" the risk of terrorism.

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