Syrian refugees arrive in Texas, even as state tries to block them

Members of The Syrian People Solidarity Group protest in Austin, Texas.

Members of The Syrian People Solidarity Group protest in Austin, Texas.

(Getty Images)

Several families of Syrian refugees were resettled in Texas and Indiana this week, even as leaders in both states vowed to step up their efforts to halt the wave of incoming refugees.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appeared in Washington on Tuesday with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to tout his proposed State Refugee Security Act, which would require federal officials to notify states 21 days before resettling any families and prohibits resettlement if they fail to assure governors the refugees do not pose a security risk.

“The threats to America’s security are difficult to assess,” Abbott said, “That is why Texas and other states are doing even more to ensure that we safeguard the security of our citizens.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, left, and Sen. Ted Cruz discuss legislation addressing the Obama administration's effort to resettle Syrian refugees.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, left, and Sen. Ted Cruz discuss legislation addressing the Obama administration’s effort to resettle Syrian refugees.


In the wake of the Paris attacks last month, Abbott was among the first of more than two dozen state leaders to announce his state would no longer accept Syrian refugees due to security concerns. When a refugee relief group balked, the state sued them and federal officials to block 21 Syrian refugees from entering the state.

Texas officials ultimately relented and withdrew their request to block refugees arriving this week, but are still pushing to block future arrivals. The Dallas judge handling the case has told attorneys involved it will likely take weeks to set a hearing.

Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton praised Cruz’s proposed legislation Tuesday, saying it “will give states the ability to control the flow of refugees from countries with known terrorist ties. In the meantime, my office will continue our court case, forcing the federal government to provide information on specific refugees that will help us keep Texans safe from international terrorism.”

As state officials fought the case, a Syrian family of six arrived to join relatives in the Dallas area Monday, according to Lucy Carrigan, a spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee, the refugee group sued by the state.


Carrigan said the family were “getting settled in” and not doing interviews Tuesday.

“They are happy to be here,” she said, and, “aware of what is going on.”

Another family of six was resettled in Houston on Monday, and nine more were expected here later this week, according to court filings.

Texas has taken in more refugees than any other state in the last five years, including about 250 Syrian refugees, second only to California.


In Indiana, where Gov. Mike Pence also vowed to stop Syrian refugees from resettling last month, the ACLU of Indiana has sued the state on behalf of a refugee group forced to divert a Syrian family to resettle in Connecticut last month.

But this week, another Syrian family was able to resettle in Indiana, according to a statement posted online Tuesday by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The family fled Syria three years ago and passed two years of “extensive security checks and personal interviews” before being allowed to enter the U.S., Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin said in the statement.

Tobin met last week with Pence to discuss the governor’s order blocking state agencies from assisting Syrian refugees. Tobin said he explained to the governor the plight of the Syrian couple and their two children, who wanted to join relatives in Indianapolis.


“I listened to the governor’s concerns regarding security and prayerfully considered his request that we defer from welcoming them until Congress had approved new legislation regarding immigrants and refugees,” Tobin said, before informing Pence that the church would still resettle the family, as they have others for 40 years, because the “life-saving tradition” is “an essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians.”


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