Texas loses bid to keep Syrian refugees out

June 16, 2016  

Texas has lost its bid to keep Syrian refugees out, after a federal judge dismissed the state’s lawsuit over resettlements from the war-torn Middle Eastern country.

U.S. District Court Judge David Godbey ruled Wednesday that the state failed to make “a plausible claim for relief” in its lawsuit against the federal government and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a charity that aids refugees.

“I am disappointed with the court’s determination that Texas cannot hold the federal government accountable,” state Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a written statement.

Texas officials argue that they should be consulted by the federal government before refugees are relocated there, and that the state should be provided with specific information about individual refugees.

But the judge ruled that existing law does not support the state’s petition, a ruling that was cheered by the plaintiffs.

“The court is unequivocal in validating the lawfulness of the refugee resettlement program,” said Jennifer Sime, senior vice president of the IRC’s U.S. Programs.

The non-profit group said Syrians are the most vetted of the refugees it settles in Texas. A number of intelligence agencies are involved in background checks, and only those with the most well-founded cases ultimately qualify for resettlement.

“There’s absolutely no reason to assume that any of the refugees coming into the U.S. pose any risk whatsoever,” Donna Duvin, executive director of the IRC in Dallas, told AFP in an interview.

She said 13 children and 13 adults from Syria have so far been resettled in the Dallas area.

“People who are registering as refugees are leaving their homes because they are fleeing persecution and violence,” Duvin said.

“They are seeking a haven and a safe new home.”

Texas was one of 24 states that announced late last year they would block the program to resettle Syrian migrants within their borders due to security concerns, leading to the introduction of a Republican-sponsored bill which would curb the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States in order to prevent terrorists from slipping in.

The bill passed the House with broad bipartisan support but was subsequently blocked by Senate Democrats.

Texas state officials said after the ruling that they are considering their next moves.

“Just today, the CIA director warned Congress that ISIS may use refugee programs to smuggle in terrorists, so it is critical that our state remains vigilant in ensuring the safety of Texans,” Bryan Black, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, told AFP in an emailed statement Thursday.

He was referring to Capitol Hill testimony in which CIA Director John Brennan warned that ISIS “is probably exploring a variety of means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including refugee flows, smuggling routes, and legitimate methods of travel.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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