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Texas files its lawsuit against International Rescue Committee

I am at a loss for words.

Texas has gone to federal court in its efforts to keep Syrian refugees out of the state, filing suit against the federal government and a refugee resettlement nonprofit.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton claims the federal government and the International Rescue Committee — one of about 20 private nonprofits that have a state contract to resettle refugees in Texas — are violating federal law by moving forward with the planned resettlement of two Syrian families. One such family is expected to arrive in Texas as soon as Friday.

The lawsuit argues that the federal government and resettlement group have not fulfilled their contractual obligations to consult with, and provide information to, state officials.

It argues that federal officials violated the Refugee Act of 1980, which requires that the federal government “shall consult regularly” with the state regarding the placement of refugees. Texas also alleges that the International Rescue Committee violated a separate provision of the act requiring the nonprofit work “in close cooperation and advance consultation” with the state.

The suit, filed in the Dallas-based federal court, asks for a temporary injunction barring any Syrian refugees until terms of the contract are met. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey, a George W. Bush appointee.

“The point of this lawsuit is not about specific refugees, it is about protecting Texans by ensuring that the federal government fulfills its obligation to properly vet the refugees and cooperate and consult with the state,” Paxton said in a statement.

Declining to comment directly on the state’s lawsuit, the International Rescue Committee in a statement noted that it has a long history of serving refugees in Texas.

“Refugees are victims of terror, not terrorists, and the families we help have always been welcomed by the people of Texas,” the statement read. “The IRC acts within the spirit and letter of the law, and we are hopeful that this matter resolved soon.”

See here and here for the background, and here for a copy of the lawsuit. IRC is hardly the only group that resettles refugees in Texas, so this could be merely the first of many such lawsuits.

More from the Chron:

The family set to arrive Friday — a man named Tamman and his parents, wife and two young children — currently are staying in Jordan and are planning to board a plane on Thursday with tickets purchased by the U.S. State Department, according to Anne Marie Weiss-Armush, an aid worker assisting with the move.

“It’s kind of nerve-wrecking because it really is a test case,” said Weiss-Armush, president of DFW International, a Dallas nonprofit that helps residents from other countries. “It’s like, is Gov. Abbott going to meet them at the airport and send them away?”

DFW International already has obtained two apartments for the family on the border of Dallas and the northern suburb of Richardson, Weiss-Armush said.

[…]

In addition to Tamman’s family, the group is working to resettle another family of Syrian refugees, spokeswoman Lucy Carrigan said Wednesday. That couple and their young children are expected in Texas next week, Carrigan said.

The spokeswoman added that the the family serving as the first test case has ties to another Syrian who was resettled here in February — that man, Faez al Sharaa, 28, is Tamman’s half-brother, she said.

Faez, who told TIME Magazine that he fled Syria in early 2013 after being detained at gunpoint, has been very happy in Texas, Weiss-Armush said.

“Like most of the Syrian refugees we serve, he works at Wal-Mart,” Weiss-Armush said, although she added that he is looking for another job. “All he has ever asked me for is a job.”

I have no idea what will happen to Tammen and his family when they arrive. I suspect Greg Abbott has no idea either, and like most bullies is hoping to bluster his way to victory. I sure hope he loses, and UH Law professor Michael Olivas is quoted in this story saying the state knows it will lose and is just grandstanding, but Lord only knows what a judge might do with this. Everyone thought that the two lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act were slamdunk losers once, too. The Trib, the Press, the Current, the Associated Press, Paradise in Hell, Trail Blazers, and ThinkProgress have more.

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  1. […] not the end of the legal action, of course – Paxton requested a hearing on his lawsuit on Wednesday. It’s not clear to me what exactly motivated this, but at least the families […]