Texas Can't Ban Syrian Refugees, Federal Court Says

Texas' fight to keep refugees out of the state appears to be over, and the Syrians can stay.

In a ruling released Thursday morning, U.S. District Judge David Godbey, said that the state did not have grounds to sue the federal government and an immigrant settlement non-profit to keep refugees from settling in the Lone Star State. The state had claimed that the federal government and International Rescue Committee overstepped their authority when they agreed to settle 15,000 Syrian immigrants in Texas and across the country last November.

“I am disappointed with the court’s determination that Texas cannot hold the federal government accountable to consult with us before resettling refugees here,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “We are considering our options moving forward to guarantee the safety of Texans from domestic and foreign threats.”

Since Texas filed the lawsuit last December, 221 Syrian refugees have settled in the state, according to the federal Refugee Processing Center.

The American Civil Liberties Union represented the International Rescue Committee in the case. “With this ruling, the court unequivocally confirms that no state — not even Texas — can ban the resettlement of refugees based upon their nationality," said Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas. "This kind of discrimination is not only unconstitutional, but it’s also an affront to Texas’ values of equality and hospitality. We’re pleased that the IRC and other groups will be able to continue their important work without interference from the State.”

International Rescue Committee senior vice president Jennifer Sime said that her organization would continue to provide support to refugees looking to build their lives in Texas and across the country. 

"Today’s decision upholds and affirms America’s proud history in providing refuge for the world’s most vulnerable. Refugees are fleeing violence and persecution and want nothing more than to live a safe and peaceful life," she said in a statement.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young