Syrian refugees to settle in Texas after legal fight

Group of Syrian refugees will be settled in Texas after Texas attorney general withdrew state’s request for not allowing refugees

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Women wearing tape over their mouths that read "I am human", take part in at a pro-refugee protest organised by Americans for Refugees and Immigrants in Seattle, Washington November 28, 2015

A number of Syrian refugees are scheduled to arrive in Texas after a lawsuit to block the settlement of Syrian refugees was withdrawn by the Texas attorney general on Friday.

Twelve of the Syrian refugees will arrive and join their relatives who are already settled in Dallas and Houston on Monday. The rest of the group is scheduled to arrive in Houston on Thursday.

The families expected to come on Monday are planned to settle in the same complex in northeast Dallas as the Syrians who had arrived previously arrived. Volunteers helping refugees have collected furniture including bicycles for kids and basic hygiene materials.

On 16 November, Texas became the first state refusing the federal government’s plan to resettle refugees from Syria as 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.

Along with the Texas governor, 20 other US governors refused to take in refugees with the claim that there may be terrorists among the refugees, in a move increasing anti-refugee rhetoric. 

Following Abbott’s decision, nonprofit refugee aid agencies including the International Rescue Committee 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 to 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 programs 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.

Shortly after Texas’s demand to block Syrian refugees became official, the Texas attorney general reiterated the President’s words and withdrew the request saying that the state had no legal authority to block the resettlement of government-approved refugees.

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.

“Refugees are the most security-vetted population who enter the United States. Multiple US. Government agencies conduct rigorous security checks, a process that typically takes between 18-24 months. Put simply, entering the United States as a refugee is the most difficult way to gain access to the country,“ the statement made indication to the security controls.

In September, Obama made the order to take in at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees into the US in 2016.

Nearly 2,200 Syrian refugees have been allowed in the US over the last four years.

According to federal officials, roughly 200 Syrian refugees arrived in Texas as of 2015, a large number of them going to California and Michigan.

TRTWorld and agencies