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Syrian Refugee Families Will Still Come to Texas, Despite Effort to Stop Them

Texas filed a lawsuit last week attempting to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state, but a judge's ruling on Monday allowed 21 Syrians to arrive as planned this week.
Photo by Nabil Mounzer/EPA

Two Syrian refugee families are due to arrive in Texas on Monday despite efforts by the state to bar their resettlement with a lawsuit filed last Wednesday in federal court.

The US Justice Department said in a court filing that a family of six, including two children under the age of six, is scheduled to arrive in Dallas on the same day as another family of six, made up of four children between the ages of two and 13 and their parents, is set to arrive in Houston. Another nine Syrian refugees are expected in Houston on Thursday.

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The families are coming less than a week after the Texas Health and Human Services Commission filed a lawsuit against the federal government in an attempt to block Syrian refugees from entering the state on the grounds that it would cause "irreparable injury," reported the Houston Chronicle.The commission's suit said that it "possesses reasonable concerns about the safety and security of the citizenry of the State of Texas regarding these refugees that may seek resettlement within the State of Texas."

The outcome of the case could determine whether states can legally bar the local resettlement of Syrian refugees. Following the deadly Paris terror attacks in November, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, was among the first of more than 30 governors to say that they did not want their states to take in Syrians. Abbott said he was concerned that US security screenings of refugees are ineffective and could allow people with ties to terrorism to be admitted.

But a federal judge on Monday denied a request by Texas to have a hearing by Wednesday for an injunction to bar Syrian refugees from resettling, said the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which has worked on the case.

"The parties will submit briefings over the course of the next few weeks, after which the judge will take up the request for a preliminary injunction," said Anna Núñez, a spokesperson with the ACLU of Texas.

The US Justice Department has argued that Texas does not have the authority to act on immigration policy and that it cannot block the refugees.

The International Rescue Committee, which is also a party in the commission's suit, said that barring entry to a state based on nationality violates US civil rights laws.

In November, a family of Syrian refugees settled in Connecticut after Mike Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, where the trio had been headed, said that he did not want Syrian refugees entering his state.

Texas has been one of the main states in the US for the relocation of Syrians since the country's civil war erupted about four years ago. Since fiscal year 2011, 243 Syrian refugees have resettled in Texas, the US filing said. The US has taken in slightly more than 2,000 Syrian refugees total since the war began in 2011.