Texas Backs Off on Immediate Attempt to Block All Syrian Refugees

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December 4, 2015; ABC News (Associated Press)

The state of Texas has dropped its efforts to exclude Syrian refugees from resettling there after filing a suit last week against not only local nonprofits working to resettle the families, but also against the federal government.

“I think that it’s the first sign that Texas is beginning to see the light,” said Cecillia Wang of the ACLU, which is defending the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

While Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton charged that IRC had provided few details about the refugees and charged it with violating federal law by not cooperating with the state, the IRC says that this is untrue. Donna Duvin, executive director of the IRC in Dallas, said in a sworn declaration that the information was already being shared and Texas had only requested to be informed about dates and the numbers of Syrian refugees due to arrive.

Durbin said her organization shared a spreadsheet with a proposed number of 200 to 250 Syrians refugees expected this fiscal year. Also on the spreadsheet was information that both the IRC and state health officials had received “some anti-Muslim communication,” which was being monitored. Both President Obama and the ACLU have called the suit frivolous.

In its suit against IRC and the feds, the state had requested a restraining order to halt resettlement, but two days after the lawsuit was filed, the federal government, in its response to the lawsuit, announced that twenty-one refugees, including twelve children, are scheduled to resettle in Houston and Dallas next week. The ACLU writes that even though the IRC is legally required to work in “close cooperation” with the state, “the plain and ordinary meaning of ‘cooperation’ does not mean that IRC must do whatever the State says—especially when that is an order to discriminate against refugee families on the basis of nationality.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that more half of the 47 House Democrats who voted with House Republicans for the McCaul Bill, which would require the government to suspend admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S., are now in the position of actively resisting its insertion into the omnibus spending bill, which must be passed to avoid a government shutdown.

A letter from Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who originally voted for the suspension, is being circulated. In it, he asks House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to “reject attempts” to include any language blocking the acceptance of refugees in the omnibus spending package.

“Congress should not attempt to strong-arm the President into turning his back on Syrian families desperately seeking refuge from violence and persecution by threatening to shut down the government unless he acquiesces to their demands,” the letter reads.—Ruth McCambridge