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Charity to Proceed With Resettling Syrian Refugees in Texas


In Texas' lawsuit, state Attorney General Ken Paxton — shown at right during a hearing in McKinney, Texas, on Dec. 1, 2015 — cited security concerns and the alleged failure of the federal government to fully inform Texas about Syrian refugee resettlement plans.

In Texas' lawsuit, state Attorney General Ken Paxton — shown at right during a hearing in McKinney, Texas, on Dec. 1, 2015 — cited security concerns and the alleged failure of the federal government to fully inform Texas about Syrian refugee resettlement plans.

The agency handling refugee resettlement in Dallas is going ahead with plans to receive two Syrian refugee families Friday, in defiance of a block on such action imposed three weeks ago by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

The stance by the International Rescue Committee follows Texas' filing of a federal lawsuit aimed at stopping further Syrian refugee resettlement in the state.

In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday against U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the New York-based IRC, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cited security concerns and the alleged failure of the federal government to keep the state fully informed about resettlement plans.

Texas' lawsuit was the first to be filed by any state to try to block refugee resettlement since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month.

Texas' lawsuit was the first to be filed by any state to try to block refugee resettlement since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month.

But legal experts expressed doubt that the state would prevail in its suit, the hearing for which could come as early as next week.

Michael Olivas, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, said immigration and refugee acceptance are exclusively under the control of the federal government.

"It is supposed to consult, as it is doing with the various states, but the final word and the choices are to be made by the federal government," Olivas told VOA in a phone interview. "The states have a very small role to play in this.”

Olivas said Texas also is violating the U.S. Constitution, as well as its own constitution, in attempting to single out one nationality for exclusion.

“The state of Texas' Bill of Rights says that it may not discriminate on the basis of national origin, and yet the governor is invoking law to keep out Syrians,” he said.

Texas' lawsuit was the first to be filed by any state to try to block refugee resettlement since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month. In the wake of the Paris violence, Abbott declared a hold on any further Syrian refugee resettlement in Texas.

Within a few days, governors in 30 other states made similar declarations.

FILE - Syrian refugees at Horgos, Serbia, Sept. 15, 2015. (Henry Ridgwell/VOA)

FILE - Syrian refugees at Horgos, Serbia, Sept. 15, 2015. (Henry Ridgwell/VOA)

State officials have expressed fear of terrorism in their objection to taking in more Syrian refugees, but representatives of the IRC and other charitable organizations involved with refugees say the screening process used by the United States is stringent and that it is highly unlikely any terrorists would get through it. They say the Syrian refugees are men, women and children fleeing violence and hardship.

Abbott’s stand against Syrian refugees contrasts sharply with the position taken by most mayors and local officials around his state. The mayors of Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin have all spoken in favor of welcoming more refugees to their cities.

Texas has taken in about 10 percent of all refugees coming to the United States in recent years, making it the top state for refugee resettlement. Since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, Texas has taken in about 180 Syrian refugees.

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