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Texas backs down from effort to block Syrian refugees

Saturday, Dec 5, 2015,12:54 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Dallas | Texas stopped trying Friday to block Syrian refugees from resettling in the state after suing the US government over fears that new arrivals from the war-torn country could pose a security risk. The swift reversal defused a lawsuit the Obama administration criticized as unfounded.

Since the Paris attacks, at least 29 US governors have vowed to keep new Syrian refugees outside their state borders. Texas on Wednesday became the first to take the federal government to court, but legal experts called the lawsuit futile, saying states have no authority over resettlements. I think that it’s the first sign that Texas is beginning to see the light, said Cecillia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is defending a resettlement group that Texas also sued.

One Syrian family, which includes two children ages 3 and 6 and their grandparents, was expected to arrive in Dallas on Monday. Details about the refugees were closely guarded by resettlement organizers over safety concerns. Last month, armed protesters with long guns staged a small demonstration outside a suburban Dallas mosque.

A total of 21 Syrian refugees, most of whom are 13 years old or younger, are scheduled to resettle next week in Dallas and Houston. All they’re asking for is safety, said Lucy Carrigan, spokeswoman for the nonprofit International Rescue Committee, which is coordinating the Dallas resettlements. Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had claimed that the IRC handed over few details about the refugees and no assurances about whether they posed a threat.

He accused the IRC of violating federal law by not cooperating with the state after Abbott last month ordered resettlement groups in Texas to stop accepting Syrians. Paxton wanted a federal judge to immediately halt the resettlements, but dropped that request Friday after the Obama administration and ACLU attacked the state’s argument in court papers as frivolous. Federal courts including the US Supreme Court have long ruled that immigration is a federal responsibility.

The Obama administration has announced plans to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees nationwide and defends the screening process as rigorous. In Texas, the refugees set to arrive next week include a single woman hoping to reunite with her mother. A dozen of the refugees bound for Texas arrived in New York on Thursday and Friday and were greeted warmly by Democratic New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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