Texas Sues U.S. to Block 6 Syrian Refugees Coming to Dallas

  • Almost a third of governors oppose settling refugees locally
  • Abbott wants guarantee Syrians don't pose security threat

Texas sued the Obama administration over claims the state wasn’t properly consulted over a plan to resettle six Syrian refugees in Dallas as soon as this week.

The state seeks a court order barring Syrian refugees from being placed in Texas until the federal government provides assurances they’ve been screened for security risks.

Wednesday’s lawsuit stems from a standoff between the International Rescue Committee, one of nine agencies that resettles refugees in consultation with the U.S. State Department, and Governor Greg Abbott, one of almost a third of the nation’s governors to oppose resettling Syrian refugees in their states.

Abbott last month directed the state’s Health and Human Services Commission to not assist in the resettling of any Syrian refugees, while also instructing the state law enforcement officials to “ensure any refugees already in this state do not pose a risk to public safety.”

In a Nov. 30 letter defying the governor’s order, the Dallas branch of the International Rescue Committee told state officials it would “continue to provide assistance and services to all refugees who have been admitted lawfully to the U.S.”

Six Refugees

The group later told Texas officials that it would resettle six Syrian refugees in Dallas on Dec. 4, prompting Wednesday’s lawsuit. Defendants include the rescue committee and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Just hours before the lawsuit was announced, Abbott responded to a question about the Syrian refugee matter on a press call with reporters from Havana, Cuba, where he’s on a trade mission. He said that the refugee agency had “provided absolutely no guarantees” that the Syrians pose no risk to Texans.

“The national security director himself said that there is a very real concern of terrorists being able to infiltrate Syrian refugees,” said Abbott, a Republican. “I think it is irresponsible for the refugee resettlement operations to put aside any type of security interests and to continue to press on about this.”

Texas said in the complaint that it takes about 10 percent of all refugees resettled in the U.S. As of the end of October, Texas had received more Syrian refugees than any other state, followed by California, Michigan, Illinois and Arizona, according to State Department data.

U.S. State Department representatives didn’t immediately respond after regular business hours to a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Texas Health and Human Services Commission v. USA, 3:15-cv-03851, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).

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