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USA Battles Texas Over Syrian Refugees

DALLAS (CN) - The United States on Tuesday asked a federal judge to reject Texas' request for an injunction to keep Syrian refugees out of the state, because Texas has failed to prove they are a threat to the public.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission sued the United States and the nonprofit International Rescue Committee on Dec. 3, claiming the Refugee Act of 1980 requires the federal government to "consult regularly" with state and local governments and nonprofit agencies on the refugee sponsorship process and refugees' relocation "before their placement" in their new homes.

Texas claims the IRC failed to comply with its Dec. 1 request to stop the resettlement of 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.

On Dec. 9, U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey rejected Texas' request for a temporary restraining order, calling the state's fears of terrorists infiltrating the U.S. refugee program unfounded and "largely speculative hearsay ."

The United States filed a 34-page opposition to Texas' motion for preliminary injunction on Tuesday. The government says Texas is trying to exert veto power "over individual federal refugee resettlement decisions" by banning Syrian refugees, who are "one of the most afflicted and thoroughly vetted populations" seeking refuge in the United States.

"Unable, though, to make a showing of imminent irreparable injury, of statutory right, or that an injunction would serve the public interest, plaintiff has failed to carry its heavy burden to obtain injunctive relief," the filing states.

The government says Texas has failed to show that Syrian refugees "pose any danger, much less an imminent one" to Texas residents.

"Plaintiff's assertions of harm are based on inadmissible hearsay and are at best speculative, as this court has already found," the filing states. That conclusion alone is fatal to plaintiff's request for preliminary relief."

The United States says Texas has failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits, that the Refugee Act does not create a legal obligation to provide states with information on individual refugees "so the state may play an independent role in determining who may be resettled" in a state.

It also claims that Texas failed to show that the "balance of equities and the public interest" favor an injunction.

"Granting an injunction would undermine important U.S. foreign-policy objectives, and it would frustrate the government's humanitarian efforts to address the worst refugee crisis seen in a generation, contrary to both the nation's proud tradition of welcoming the world's most vulnerable people to our shores, and the clear intent of the Refugee Act," the filing states.

The IRC said it is confident it has "always acted in accordance with the law" in assisting refugees placed in Texas.

"We have had a strong and collaborative relationship with the State for the past 40 years, which has benefitted refugees and local communities," IRC senior vice president Jennifer Sims said in a statement Tuesday.

"We have made clear our commitment to continued dialogue with the state authorities, and we hope for a swift resolution of this case."

The IRC is represented by the ACLU of Texas, which argues that no state can "unilaterally bar" refugees that have been thoroughly vetted and admitted by the federal government.

"By irrationally blocking Syrian families, based solely on their nationality, Texas is violating federal law, the U.S. Constitution, and our fundamental American values of welcoming and providing refuge for families fleeing violence and war," said lead counsel Cecillia Wang.

Unlike political asylees, who may enter the United States without documents and then apply for legal status, refugees generally are granted legal status before they set foot on U.S. soil, and so are never "illegal" or "undocumented" here. Texas thus is claiming a legal power not granted to any state, immigration attorneys say: the power to exclude a legal resident of the United States from moving there.

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