Federal judge rejects Texas' effort to block Syrian refugees

Federal judge rejects Texas' effort to block Syrian refugees, says terrorist threat is 'largely speculative hearsay'

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott speak about the Senate bill, "Terrorist Refugee Infiltration Prevention Act of 2015", which would prevent refugees into the US from Iraq, Syria on December 8, 2015.

A US federal court judge on Wednesday dismissed a request by Texas to block the arrival of Syrian refugees seeking to resettle in the state, clearing the way for the last of 21 Syrian refugees who are awaiting their resettlement there.

Refugees, including six children, are expected to join relatives already settled in the Dallas and Houston areas on Thursday.

Earlier this week, a dozen refugees arrived in the state despite a parallel request that was withdrawn by the Texas Attorney General last week.

In the latest to bar refugees, US District Judge David Godbey said claims by Texas that there may be terrorists among the refugees is a "largely speculative hearsay."

"The fact that this Court is required to assess the risk posed by a group of Syrian refugees illustrates one of the problems with this case," Godbey wrote in a three-page order.

"The Court has no institutional competency in assessing the risk posed by refugees."

He reiterated that such questions are generally left to the discretion of the Federal Government.

On 16 November, Texas became the first state refusing the Federal Government’s plan to resettle refugees from Syria as Governor Greg Abbott announced on Twitter that "Texas will not accept any Syrian refugees & I demand the US act similarly," citing security concerns after the deadly DAESH attacks in Paris on November 13.

Texas is also the only state that has started legal proceedings against US Government's Refugee Policy.

Along with the Texas governor, 30 other US governors refused to take in refugees with the claim that there may be terrorists among the refugees, in a move increasing the anti-refugee rhetoric.

Following Abbott’s decision, non-profit refugee aid agencies including the International Rescue Committee (IRC) received a letter from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, threatening to open lawsuits against the agencies if they continue helping Syrian refugees to move to the state.

On December 2, Texas Health and Human Services Commission opened a lawsuit in federal court to stop IRC from helping settle six Syrians in the Dallas area.

Previously, US President Barack Obama slammed the controversial request with a warning letter he had sent to these states.

“Accordingly, states may not categorically deny ORR-funded benefits and services to Syrian refugees,” said the letters sent by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“Any state with such a policy would not be in compliance with the State Plan requirements, applicable statutes, and their own assurances, and could be subject to enforcement action, including suspension and termination.”

The letter also mentioned that all programmes receiving federal financial assistance were prohibited to discriminate against refugees based on their race and national origin in accordance to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In an opposition statement to the Texas state released on the same day as the withdrawal of the related lawsuit, IRC said that it was confident that it has always acted in accordance with the law when it comes to their work to assist refugees who have been given permission for sanctuary in Texas.

TRTWorld and agencies