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Refugees Continue to Resettle in Texas Despite Lawsuit

Jane Malin holds a sign as she waves to passing cars during a rally to show support for Muslim members of the community near the Clear Lake Islamic Center in Webster, Texas, Dec. 4, 2015.

The family of six Syrian refugees that the state of Texas sought to block from arriving in Dallas last week is now well into its resettlement process there.

The state dropped its call for a restraining order, but continues with a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. State Department and the International Rescue Committee.

The brother of one of the new arrivals is helping the six-member family to adjust to life in Dallas. Faez Al Sharaa fled Syria with his family in 2013.

He had scheduled a news conference with the family for Wednesday morning at his home, but he canceled it abruptly the night before.

In a VOA phone interview, he said his brother feared reprisals against family members still in the war-torn country.

“Because he has a family inside Syria, he is scared for the family, ” he said.

Considerable challenges

The International Rescue Committee, or IRC, also has cautioned refugees against speaking to the media, especially in the early stages of settlement.

After arrival at their new home, refugees typically go through a learning process that includes such subjects as how to get around, how to find a job and, quite often, how to speak English well enough to get a job and function in a U.S. community.

Al Sharaa says these are all challenges he now is helping the family to face. The new arrivals include his brother and wife, two children and the grandparents.

In filing the lawsuit last week, Texas cited concerns over security, an issue that has resonated with the public since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month and the more recent violence in California. But the IRC’s Lucy Carrigan tells VOA such concerns are unfounded.

“Refugees are the most security-vetted people who come to this country,” she said. “They are fleeing terrorism and all they really want to do is avail of the sanctuary here in the United States and start their lives anew.”

While Texas Governor Greg Abbott has tried to halt further refugee resettlement in his state, alleging lack of cooperation and information sharing on the part of the federal government, the mayors of all major Texas cities have expressed support for refugee resettlement in their communities.

Lone Star state

Lucy Carrigan says the lawsuit has had no impact on IRC’s work in the lone star state.

“The IRC has been working here in Texas for the last 40 years and we have had a really strong relationship with all levels of the state and local government, so we are focused on our work and we are letting the lawsuit run its course,” she said.

As for the newly arrived family, Carrigan said they were informed of the legal action in Texas when they arrived in New York last week.

“One of our caseworkers talked through with them what was happening in Texas and gave them the assurances that we were going to work with them and ensure that they were able to continue on their journey to Texas,” she said.

The family flew to Austin, the state capital, on Saturday and then drove to Dallas so as to avoid the news media that had staked out the Dallas-Fort Worth International airport. Refugees from Syria and elsewhere continue to arrive in Texas without incident as Texas is the number one state for refugee resettlement.

A group of about eight Syrian refugees is expected to arrive Thursday in Houston.