Court Rejects Lawsuit, Says Texas Cannot Block Syrian Refugees

Texas will not be allowed to block or hinder efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in its territory. Texas was the first state to try and block refugees after the Paris attacks, but it was far from the last. This latest development will likely have major consequences for the 31 other states that have opposed resettlement.

Judge David C. Godbey of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ordered that state officials cannot interfere with federal efforts or with the nonprofit group International Rescue Committee, which is trying to help Syrian refugees integrate into American life. The decision is the end of this legal battle, according to Cecillia Wang of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.

“This ruling is a strong rebuke of unconstitutional efforts to block refugee resettlement. It sends the clear message to other states that such attempts are not only un-American, they are contrary to the law and will fail in court.”

According to NBC News, Texas initiated the lawsuit back in December last year. Six Syrian refugees were trying to find a home in Dallas with the help of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). State officials from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission asked about the resettlement, and the IRC refused to give any information.

Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott discuss the Obama administrations plans to resettle more Syrian refugees in the U.S. at a press conference. [Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images] Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott discuss the Obama administration’s plans to resettle more Syrian refugees in the U.S. at a press conference. [Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]Texas said that violated the 1980 Refugee Act, which requires consultation with local officials. The New York Times reports that Texas’ political leaders, like Gov. Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz, felt that refugees were exploiting the program and cited security concerns. The lawsuit used the arrest of Omar Faraj Saeed al Hardan as an example of how screening procedures are inadequate.

Hardan was a refugee from Iraq and was accused of providing material assistance to terrorist organizations from his new home in Houston.

In the end, the judge ruled that the state “lacked a cause of action” to use the Refugee Act. The defense attorneys argued that Texas’s case was “speculative and uninformed,” although the state’s attorneys said the state government had a right to know what was coming into their borders.

The court battle might be over for now, but the political fight might pick up steam again soon.

The federal government has been dragging its feet on its promises to resettle more Syrian refugees. State department data shows that they’ve only processed 1,285 new refugees, but the goal is to take in 10,000. In the next several months, officials plan on increasing efforts, but it will almost certainly become a political issue.

The U.N. says that about 4.8 million people have been forced out of Syria because of the civil war there. [Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images] The U.N. says that about 4.8 million people have been forced out of Syria because of the civil war there. [Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images]In the wake of the Orlando shooting, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. A Gallup poll shows that most Republicans see the attack as Islamic terrorism, rather than an incident of domestic gun violence. The shooter, Omar Mateen, was American born, although he did confess an allegiance to ISIS during the shooting.

Fear of further attacks might fuel more lawsuits. After the attacks in Paris, Alabama filed a lawsuit against the federal government similar to the one in Texas. Tennessee also expressed interest in taking the government to court. The judge’s decision is seen as the end of the legal fight to some, but Texas attorney general Ken Paxton seemed hopeful about other options in a statement.

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

It’s not clear what the next step will be, but for now, Syrian refugees have the green light to resettle anywhere in the U.S., including Texas.

[Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images]