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Texas Presses Its Court Fight Over Refugees

DALLAS (CN) - Texas continued its legal war with the federal government Tuesday, claiming Washington violated a court order to give seven days notice before resettling Syrian refugees in the state, by sending seven refugees to Houston on Friday.

Texas sued the United States and the nonprofit International Rescue Commission in December, claiming they violated the Refugee Act of 1980 by failing to "consult regularly" with state and local governments and nonprofit agencies before placing refugees.

On Dec. 7, U.S. District Judge David Godbey ordered federal officials to give the advance notice, but Texas says it got no notice about the seven refugees until the day of their arrival, Jan. 22.

Texas claims the IRC failed to comply with its Dec. 1 demand not to resettle six Syrians in Dallas "until we have receive[d] the requested information and our concerns with screening procedures have been appropriately addressed" by federal officials.

Texas sought an injunction last week, fueled by the arrest of an Iraqi refugee in Houston on terror charges.

Attorney General Ken Paxton moved again for an injunction on Tuesday, accusing President Barack Obama of continuing to send Syrian refugees to Texas "under a cloak of secrecy."

"The threat to our communities by foreign terrorists is real," Paxton said in a statement Tuesday. "The greater concern is not what we know about these refugees; it's what we do not know."

Texas said in its "Response to Federal Defendants' Notice of Arrival of Syrian Refugees" that it "appreciates" that Washington quickly informed the court of its violation of Godbey's order.

"But this circumstance is the merely the latest in a series of events that proves exactly why a preliminary injunction and ultimate relief are needed to ensure that Texas has, at a minimum, the information it needs to protect the safety of its residents while resettling more refugees than any other state," Texas said in the response. "The harm that results to the state by this late notification is irreparable as a matter of law."

Justice Department attorneys apologized to the court on Friday, saying the failure to inform was "inadvertent, not intentional, and apparently occurred because of a miscommunication" between personnel at the State Department.

Texas says it takes in about 10 percent of the country's refugees, partnering with volunteer agencies and paying some of the costs.

Paxton said it was the second time in a year that the Obama Administration has "either defied or misled a federal court" on an immigration issue.

"In March 2015, the administration admitted that tens of thousands of expanded work permits had been issued to unauthorized aliens, in direct contradiction to the facts they presented in U.S. federal court," Paxton said.

Seventeen interfaith religious leaders filed an amicus brief on Jan. 11 in support of the IRC and the federal government. They said Texas' demand that religious groups discriminate against the needy based on national origin "is not just wrong, it threatens religious freedom."

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