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Texas files suit in federal court to try to block settling of Syrian refugees in state

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Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton

WASHINGTON — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a complaint in federal court against the United States, State Department and the International Rescue Committee, seeking a stay of federal plans to settle any Syrian refugees in his state.

In court papers, Paxton said that he has learned that “on or about Thursday, December 3, or Friday, December 4, a group of Syrian refugees are scheduled to arrive in Texas.”

He said that the International Rescue Committee intends to help resettle the refugees in Dallas. Paxton said that the Refugee Act of 1980 requires that the federal government “shall consult regularly” with state and local governments and private nonprofit voluntary agencies concerning the intended distribution of refugees and the government has failed to do so.

“While Texans are compassionate to our core, and take in more refugees than any other state, significant security concerns have been raised about President Obama’s plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year, nationwide,” Paxton said in a statement. “The federal government’s stated inability to run effective background checks on these refugees, entering the United States from one of the world’s most potent hotbeds of terrorism, puts all Texans at risk.”

Paxton said the federal government has not fulfilled their burden to consult with Texas ahead of the refugee relocation.

“The point of this lawsuit is not about specific refugees, it is about protecting Texans by ensuring that the federal government fulfills its obligation to properly vet the refugees and cooperate and consult with the state,” he said.

Legal experts say that the federal government has broad discretion concerning who gets to come into the country and that the states cannot block their borders, although they can make things more complicated.

Supporters of the refugees say that Paxton misunderstands federal law.

“The state is itself failing to ‘cooperate’ with the federal program and the local agencies,” said Omar Jadwat of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Right Project yesterday when Texas threatened legal action.

“The provision the state is relying on doesn’t say cooperation is a one-way street — that the state calls the shots and others fall in line,” Jadwat said. “It talks about various entities, including the state, cooperating ‘with one another.’ If that’s not happening here, it’s because of the state’s immoral, illegal and unconstitutional policy of discriminating on the basis of national origin — not because of any failure of the agencies to do their part.”