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Government Q&A about Texas' lawsuit over Syrian refugee resettlement

Q&A about Texas’ lawsuit over Syrian refugee resettlement

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas is suing the U.S. government in an attempt to block six Syrian refugees from being resettled in Dallas this week. Here’s what preceded the lawsuit and what it means:


Texas is the first state in the nation to ask a federal court to block the arrival of Syrian refugees in the wake of the November terrorist attacks in Paris. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, comes two weeks after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered resettlement organizations in Texas to stop accepting Syrian refugees over security concerns about whether new arrivals are sufficiently screened. The Obama administration says states do not have the legal authority to block refugee placement.


Plans have been in place for six Syrian refugees to be resettled in Dallas this week. The nonprofit International Refugee Committee has refused to halt their arrival, which could come early as Thursday night, despite the state threatening to strip funding and filing the lawsuit, which also names the IRC as defendants.

Texas health officials say other resettlement groups are cooperating, though IRC is not the only group in Texas that has pledged to continue accepting Syrians.


The federal Refugee Act of 1980 says resettlement agencies should work in close cooperation with state and local governments. Abbott says the IRC has provided no guarantees about security, and the lawsuit claims that because IRC hasn’t cooperated with Texas, the state can’t exercise “police power to protect the safety of its residents.” The Obama administration says that federal refugee vetting is thorough and can take up to two years.


Immigration experts say it’s unlikely. Federal courts — including the U.S. Supreme Court — have said immigration and admission of noncitizens to the United States is a federal responsibility and one managed wholly by the federal government.

Denise Gilman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, says there is no basis for the lawsuit and believes the state may just be going to court as an intimidation measure. She says if the judge grants Texas anything, a scenario she calls “almost impossible,” it would be an order that directs the IRC to share more information but doesn’t block the refugees.


Texas wants an immediate ruling blocking the Syrians from resettling in Dallas until Dec. 9. A decision on whether to grant Texas a temporary restraining order could come Thursday.

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