Texas threatens funding cut to relief agency over resettling Syrians in state

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 30, 2015 5:39 PM

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - A Dallas relief agency faces a Monday deadline to respond to Texas state officials who have threatened to cut funding to the nonprofit organization if it tries to resettle Syrian refugees in the state.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission warned the Dallas office of the International Rescue Committee in a letter last week that it would be in violation of its contract with the state if it did not comply with Governor Greg Abbott’s order to stop accepting Syrian refugees.

Abbott, a Republican, is concerned that U.S. security screening is ineffective and could allow in people with ties to terrorism, the letter said.

International Rescue Committee officials in Texas were not immediately available for comment.

"We have been unable to achieve cooperation with your agency,” Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor wrote in the letter. "Specifically, your agency insists on resettling certain refugees from Syria in the near future.”

Texas leads the United States in resettling Syrian refugees from their country's four-year civil war. But it became one of the first of more than 30 U.S. states to say they would refuse to accept Syrian refugees in statements following the deadly Paris attacks this month.

The opposition was part of a backlash against the Obama administration's plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year. The U.S. House of Representatives, defying a veto threat by President Barack Obama, has passed Republican-backed legislation to suspend the refugee program.

Refugee advocates have said the governors have no legal power to exclude entry based on a person's nationality to anyone in the United States legally.

They have also argued that the governors, mostly Republicans, are targeting those who are overwhelmingly victims rather than perpetrators of violence in Syria.The Texas commission said other resettlement agencies had agreed to find alternative placement options for Syrians who would otherwise relocate to Texas.

The International Rescue Committee headquarters in New York said on Monday it would not stop relocation efforts despite opposition.

Texas has housed 180 Syrian refugees since Syria's civil war began in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney)