U.S. judge denies another Texas request to block Syrian refugees

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 4:57 PM

By Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Maria Garza

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. federal court judge dismissed a request by Texas shortly after it was filed on Wednesday seeking a restraining order to block the imminent entry into the state of nine Syrian refugees, saying the evidence presented was "largely speculative hearsay."

This is the second attempt by Texas to seek immediate court help to halt the refugees, with Texas saying the U.S. government had not met its legal obligation to consult with local officials about the resettlement.

The Texas action came after U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump touched off a global firestorm by saying that Muslims should be denied entry into the United States.

"The (Texas) Commission has failed to show by competent evidence that any terrorists actually have infiltrated the refugee program, much less that these particular refugees are terrorists intent on causing harm," U.S District Judge David Godbey said in his decision.

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.

A previous attempt for a temporary restraining order was dropped last week by Texas. The move came hours after the U.S. Justice Department filed a brief at the U.S. District Court in Dallas saying the federal government and not the states sets U.S. policy on immigration.

Texas said in that case the government had provided the information it requested on the group, which was two families of six each who arrived in Dallas and Houston on Monday.

After the November 13 attacks in Paris for which the group Islamic State claimed responsibility, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, was one of the first governors to seek to block on security grounds the resettlement of Syrians in their states.

"It is essential that a judge consider halting the Syrian refugee process, at least on a temporary basis, to ensure refugees coming to the United States will be vetted in a way that does not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans," Abbott said in a statement.

A family of eight Syrian refugees, including six children ages 6 to 15, is due to arrive in Houston on Thursday, along with a 26-year-old Syrian woman whose mother resides in the area, the Justice Department said last Friday in a court filing.

The Justice Department said in that 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 in the filing.

A federal judge is expected to hear a request from Texas in the next few weeks seeking an injunction to halt the resettlements.

A Texas House committee will hear testimony on Dec. 15 on Abbott's plans to halt Syrian refugee resettlement in the state.

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

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Maria Garza; Editing by Sandra Maler, Toni Reinhold)