The fight over the right to resettle Syrian refugees in Texas is heating up. Gov. Greg Abbott (TP-Texas) previously declared that Texas will not accept Syrian refugees despite having no authority whatsoever over the matter and in apparent violation of legal protections against discrimination based on national origin or religion. Abbott then threatened non-profits who are doing the hard work of creating conditions for a better life in the U.S. for these refugees with legal action if they did not kowtow to his demands. Well, at least one such non-profit is fighting back against Abbott’s baseless blustering. The Texas Tribune has the details.
The New York-based International Rescue Committee said in a Monday letter to Texas health and human services chief Chris Traylor that its Dallas affiliate would continue to provide resettlement assistance to all refugees “who have been admitted lawfully to the United States.”
The nonprofit had received a letter earlier on Monday from Traylor urging the International Rescue Committee’s Dallas branch to discontinue resettling Syrian refugees or risk losing its state contract “and other legal action.” The International Rescue Committee — one of about 20 nonprofits that have a state contract to resettle refugees in Texas — had previously informed the state that it would resettle two families in the Dallas area in early December. Both families have relatives in North Texas, the nonprofit said.
The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement last week warned Abbott and other governors that they do not have the power to reject Syrian refugees, telling them they would be breaking the law if they denied benefits or services to refugees based on their country of origin or religion. States that defy the law could face suspension or termination of their refugee resettlement programs, according to a letter signed by Robert Carey, director of the office.
Abbott has insisted he has the legal authority to refuse to accept Syrian refugees, citing a specific part of federal law requiring resettlement nonprofits to work “in close cooperation and advance consultation” with the state.
Abbott is a well-versed constitutional lawyer who should know better than to put forth absurd claims of authority based on statutory language that does not actually give the state any power to control the resettlement of refugees. But that wouldn’t play well with his Tea Party base – now would it?