Texas threatens to sue aid group helping Syrian refugees

Texas official threatens to sue aid organization supporting Syrian refugees, tells them to stop helping Syrians to resettle in state

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A protester holds a sign at a pro-refugee protest in Seattle, Washington November 28, 2015

A Texas official threatened a humanitarian aid group to sue if they don’t stop helping Syrian refugees to move to the state.

Chris Taylor, the head of state’s health and human services commission, wrote a letter to the Dallas branch of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) that they were “believing” that a failure to cooperate the state on this matter violates federal law and the organization’ contract with the state.

Texas’s Republican governor Greg Abbott and more than two dozen other governors increased anti-refugee rhetoric following the DAESH attacks in Paris on November 13 and refused to take Syrian refugees in their states.

Most of the Republican candidates supported the governors opposition claiming that the Syrian refugees fleeing years of bombardments in their country could be “security threats.”

The New York based humanitarian organization IRC was the only aid group who had received such a letter, Texas health agency spokesperson Bryan Black said.

The IRC has responded Taylor’s letter in a statement which didn’t mention any change of their plan to relocate refugees in Texas.

 “It is important not to conflate terrorists with the Syrian refugees who are seeking sanctuary in the United States,” the aid group said.

“The Governor believes that accepting refugees from Syria is incompatible with an absolute commitment to the safety of Texans because the President has shown the governor no willingness to improve the security screenings of refugees from Syria, despite the abundant evidence that the screenings are ineffective.”

The IRC also stated its willingness to meet with Governor Abott and other state officials to “discuss the resettlement of Syrian refugees.”

“These are people who are fleeing violence and persecution inflicted by extremist groups and armed actors – some of whom are the same groups who took those innocent lives in Paris, Beirut, and on a Russian airliner,” the IRC said.

Recently, each state have received a letter by government of US President Barack Obama warning that they were not legally allowed to suspend or terminate the federally funded resettlement program and the states denying resettlement services were to be punished.

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

On late November, Indiana governor Mike Pence has been sued for objecting to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state. 

Executive director of the Dallas office of IRC, Donna Duvin stated that they would be working with the families to the best of their abilities if they are approved for travel to Dallas area.

"We're not aggressively going out and pursuing Syrian families,” she told the Associated Press last week.

On September, Obama has directed his administration to prepare to take in at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees over the next year. 

Over the last four years nearly 2,200 Syrian refugees have been allowed in the US.

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

TRTWorld and agencies