Texas sues feds over plans to resettle Syrian refugees

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Texas filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the federal government in an effort to block six Syrian refugees from resettling in Dallas this week.

The lawsuit comes after the International Rescue committee, a nonprofit group, said it would place Syrian refugees in Texas over the objections of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texas hopes to delay the arrival of the refugees at least for a week until a federal judge can hear the challenge. The state said in the lawsuit that the IRC and the federal government have left Texas “uninformed about refugees that could well pose a security risk to Texans.”

The White House has said states don’t have the authority to block refugees. The IRC, which was also named in the suit has noted that Syrian refugees are the most security-vetted group of people who come into the U.S. The Obama administration has said the vetting process is thorough and can take up to two years.

“We have been working diligently with the (IRC) to find a solution that ensures the safety and security for all Texans, but we have reached an impasse and will not let the courts decide,” Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokesman Bryan Black told the Dallas Morning-News.

Abbott is among more than two dozen governors who have vowed since the November Paris terror attacks to keep Syrian refugees from resettling in their states, expressing fears that militants could plan a terror attack and enter the country under the guise of a refugee. Since the attacks, about 200 refugees have settled in the U.S., including in states where governors have resisted, according to the State Department.

The IRC was threatened with a lawsuit by Texas last week. The group said Monday it will still help all refugees in accordance with its obligations under federal guidelines. Texas responded Tuesday with a moratorium on resettlements until the state received “all information” on Syrians scheduled to arrive in Texas during the next three months. Texas also urged the State Department in a letter to give them more information about the “effectiveness of the screening procedures.”

In a statement issued Wednesday night, the IRC said it "has worked in coordination with Texas officials for 40 years — to the benefit of Texas communities and the refugees we serve. Refugees are victims of terror, not terrorists, and the families we help have always been welcomed by the people of Texas. The IRC acts within the spirit and letter of the law, and we are hopeful that this matter is resolved soon."

The Justice Department said it would review the complaint after formally receiving it. The White House declined to comment.

IRC spokeswoman Lucy Carrigan has said that two Syrian families are expected to arrive in Texas in the next 10 days, including the six who are noted in the lawsuit.

Texas currently takes in more refugees than any other state, including about 240 Syrian refugees since 2011. The Dallas Morning-News reports this is the first legal action by a state to block Syrian refugees.

The Refugee Act of 1980 dictates that refugee resettlement within the United States is managed by the federal government. State refugee coordinators are consulted by the federal government and the nine refugee resettlement agencies that have contracts with the government, but that consultation is largely to ensure refugees are settled in cities with adequate jobs, housing and social services.

Federal courts — including the U.S. Supreme Court — have upheld that immigration and admission of noncitizens to the United States is a federal responsibility and one managed wholly by the federal government.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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