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Groups Resettling Refugees In Texas Hope They Can Keep Working Without More Litigation

A recent ruling by a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Texas seeking to block the resettlement of refugees from Syria in the state.

sign held up in support of refugees in Texas
A group gathered at Wooldridge Park in Austin on Nov. 22, 2015, to protest Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision not to accept refugees from Syria.

A recent decision by a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Texas to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state and groups that work with those refugees are looking forward to the resettlement process continuing without any more legal battles.

Texas' lawsuit accused the Department of State and other federal agencies of violating the Refugee Act of 1980 because they don't consult with the state before relocating refugees.

Texas officials argued they are worried terrorist groups could use the refugee program to enter the United States.

However, Judge David Godbey ruled last week that Texas lacks legal standing to enforce that consultation.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one of the non-profit groups in charge of the resettlement in our state.

Although the process hadn't stopped because of the lawsuit, the IRC considers the decision by Judge Godbey good news.

"Whenever you’ve got a lawsuit that’s over your head, it tends to interrupt the communication flow and makes it more challenging," said Donna Duvin, executive director of the Texas office for the IRC, which is based in Dallas.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represented the IRC in the litigation.

Omar Jadwat, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, says the federal government has much more thorough capabilities to vet refugees than Texas.

"Nobody who comes to this country is as carefully scrutinized as refugees are," commented Jadwat, who added that the vetting and security checks are "truly extensive."

After Judge Godbey's decision was announced, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement he is considering "options moving forward to guarantee the safety of Texans from domestic and foreign threats."

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick categorized the judge's decision as "disappointing" and added he supports Paxton, whose office declined to be interviewed.

Data from the Department of State indicate that, since January 1st of 2016, 213 Syrians have been resettled in Texas.

Seven other states received more refugees from Syria in that same timeframe.

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