Texas drops request for restraining order to halt Syrian refugees

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 04, 2015 9:52 AM

By Julia Edwards and Jon Herskovitz

WASHINGTON/AUSTIN (Reuters) - Texas on Friday withdrew its request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the imminent resettlement of 21 Syrian refugees into the state, saying the U.S. government had provided it with the information it sought on the group.

The move came just hours after the U.S. Justice Department filed papers in a federal court in Dallas, saying the state did not have the authority to act on national immigration policy and could not bar the refugees from resettling.

The relief agency that plans to resettle the Syrians in the coming days filed a separate motion at the U.S. District Court in Dallas, contending that Texas could not discriminate against refugees on the basis of nationality because that violates U.S. civil rights laws.

"Texas is not discriminating against all refugees, only Syrian refugees," the International Rescue Committee said in its filing.

The results of this case could determine whether the governors of more than 30 states will be able to go through with plans to bar the local resettlement of Syrian refugees.

The International Rescue Committee plans to relocate a family of six Syrians to Dallas on Dec. 7 and another family of six Syrians to Houston the same day. The families arrived in the United States this week, according to court papers.

It plans to resettle a family of eight Syrians in Houston on Dec. 10, along with a 26-year-old woman whose mother resides in the area.

Texas has threatened a funding cut for the relief agency if it goes ahead with the relocation.

The state has requested that the court set a Dec. 9 date for a hearing on an injunction to halt Syrians from resettling.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission sued the U.S. government and the relief agency this week to block refugee resettlement in the state.

After the Paris attacks in November, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, was one of the first governors to seek to block the resettlement of Syrians into their states.

Abbott has said he was concerned that U.S. security screening is ineffective and could allow people with ties to terrorism to be admitted.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement the U.S. government is legally obligated to consult with Texas in advance of resettlement.

The Justice Department said in its filing the Refugee Act of 1980 requires the government to consult on a regular basis with states about the sponsorship process and distribution among states.

"It does not create any obligation to provide advance consultation regarding individual resettlement decisions," it said.

Since the fiscal year 2011, 243 Syrian refugees have resettled in Texas, the U.S. filing said, making the state one of the main U.S. relocation sites since the Syrian civil war erupted about four years ago.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza; Editing by Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio)