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Texas Drops Effort to Block Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugee Mohammad word al Jaddou, front, stands in front of his siblings twins Maria, right, and Hasan at their apartment in Dallas.
Syrian refugee Mohammad word al Jaddou, front, stands in front of his siblings twins Maria, right, and Hasan at their apartment in Dallas.

The state of Texas Friday dropped its legal challenges to the US State Department and the International Rescue Committee over the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the state was satisfied with the federal government’s assurances of cooperation and information sharing about refugees who would be sent to the state.

Legal experts were not surprised by the move, since the state has no authority over immigration or refugee resettlement, and the federal government has been informing the state about the refugee vetting process and the resettlement program.

Expert: lawsuit violated US, state constitutions

Speaking to VOA, Michael Olivas, a law professor at the University of Houston’s Law Center, said the federal government has exclusive authority on these matters.

“It is supposed to consult, as it is doing with the various states,” he said, “but the final word and the choices are to be made by the federal government. The states have a very small role to play in this.”

Olivas says the state was also 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.”

This was the first lawsuit filed by any state to block refugee resettlement since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month. In the wake of the Paris violence, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a hold on any further Syrian refugee resettlement in Texas. Within a few days, governors in 30 other states made similar declarations.

State officials expressed fear of terrorism in their objection to taking in more Syrian refugees, but representatives of 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 fleeing violence and hardship.

Families will arrive next week

A Syrian family originally scheduled to arrive in Dallas Friday remained in New York while the legal challenges were being contested. The family, consisting of a mother and father, two children and their grandparents is now expected to arrive in Dallas Monday.

On that same day, another Syrian family will arrive in Houston, where another group of eight refugees from the war-torn Middle Eastern country is expected to arrive on Thursday.

Governor Abbott’s attempt to block Syrian refugees contrasted sharply with the position taken by most mayors and local officials around the 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 around ten percent of all refugees coming to the United States in recent years, making it the number one state for refugee resettlement. Since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, the Lone Star state has taken in around 180 Syrian refugees.