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Still waiting on families to be reunited

Horrible story remains horrible.

The clock is ticking on a court-ordered Tuesday deadline for the federal government to reunite migrant parents with kids under 5 who were taken from them at the border. With a mere four days left, government attorneys have asked for more time — and some migrant parents say they have been given no information about how these court-ordered reunifications will take place.

At a status conference in San Diego Friday, government attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw to grant them reprieve from what they characterized as an over-ambitious deadline to bring together about 100 toddlers with parents who may be scattered across the country or the world — either held in immigration detention centers, released into the interior United States or, in some cases, already deported to their home countries.

Sarah Fabian, a lawyer for the Department of Justice, told the judge that the government has been able to match up 83 of those toddlers to parents, but has not yet found parental ties for 19 of them. Of the parents the government has identified so far, 46 remain in immigration detention centers. Those reunifications should be completed before the Tuesday deadline, Fabian said.

But the process is likely to take longer for the dozens of parents who are not in government custody. Nineteen parents of the youngest group of children have already been deported, 19 have been released from immigration custody into the United States, and two have been found to be unfit based on past criminal history. Fabian cautioned that those numbers were approximate and could be “in flux” over the coming days.

The judge — who had in a previous order criticized the government because “migrant children [were] not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property” — did not immediately lay out a longer time frame for reunifications in those more logistically challenging cases. Sabraw instead directed the government to provide more information over the weekend and set a Monday morning hearing to reconsider the deadlines.

“It may well be that once the plaintiffs know what the reason is and what groups [of parents] it applies to, they’ll agree that a more relaxed date can apply to a certain group,” Sabraw said at the conclusion of a lengthy conference. “But no one can make any informed decision, including the court, without additional information.”

While the judge did not revise the Tuesday deadline, it remains unlikely that all “tender age” children will be reunited with their parents by that original date. The odds are particularly steep in cases where those parents have already been deported, as the government argued Thursday. Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer arguing the case on behalf of separated parents, said countless private lawyers and other organizations have offered up their services to help speed the reunification process.

You would think that reuniting children with their parents would be the top priority. That would require people who are not evil being in charge of that.

The Trump administration is making some remarkable arguments in the on-going child/family separation cases, making it seem like they actually want to slow roll their way into making the separations permanent. As Alice Ollstein explains, the government says it needs more time to determine whether the “putative parents” (i.e., people saying they want their kids back) are in fact real parents (people with a true custodial relationship to the children in question) and further whether are fit parents. In other words, having used the criminal law to meet the very high standard required to separate children from their parents, the government is now arguing that it needs to apply a very high standard to give them back. The government is further arguing that it should not be compelled to reunify families in which parents have already been deported because of the difficulty of doing so.

This is the singular moral issue of our time. We cannot lose focus on it. And we must vote out everyone responsible for putting us here, at the very least.

No indefinite detention of asylum seekers

That title is one of those things I can’t believe I have to write.

A federal district judge has ruled President Donald Trump’s administration’s practice of indefinitely detaining some asylum seekers can’t proceed, dealing a major blow to what immigration attorneys have said is one of the administration’s tools to deter people from seeking safe haven in this country.

The lawsuit was filed in March by the American Civil Liberties Union and named as a defendant the El Paso Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office. Other field offices named in the lawsuit include Detroit, Los Angeles, Newark and Philadelphia. The El Paso office covers West Texas and New Mexico.

The ACLU alleged in the lawsuit that the plaintiffs passed their initial “credible fear” exams – the first step in the asylum process to determine if an applicant has a legitimate case. But despite having sponsors willing to provide housing in the United States, the federal government has continued to hold them instead of granting them parole.

[…]

In his Monday ruling, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg granted a preliminary injunction preventing the federal government from denying parole to any provisional class members that are a party to the lawsuit. The lawsuit defines them as “asylum seekers who traveled to the United States, were found to have a credible fear of persecution, and were referred for immigration proceedings to decide their asylum claims.” The exception applies to people who pose a flight risk or a danger to the community.

A statement from the ACLU is here, and the preliminary injunction orders are here and here. Just as a reminder, these are people who came to official ports of entry to seek asylum, which they have the legal right to do. And while you ponder that, keep in mind that the Trump administration has no clue and no plan for reuniting the children they stole from their parents. Happy Independence Day!

“Families Belong Together”

Make some noise, then make sure everyone you know gets out and votes.

As the temperature inched to the triple digits and sweating crowds swarmed the south lawn of the Texas State Capitol, speakers declared with grief, hope, indignation and determination that the Trump administration’s immigration policies do not reflect their values.

Parents brought their children. Grandparents brought their grandchildren. College friends and church groups all stood and cheered as, one after another, immigrants, activists, doctors and religious leaders took to the stage and called for the unification of the thousands of immigrant children who were separated from their parents by the federal government when crossing into the United States. The “Families Belong Together” rally in Austin was just one of many held across the state and nation, from Houston and El Paso to Washington, D.C. and New York to Dodge City, Kansas and Missoula, Montana.

“While our president and his supporters have sought to divide us, we are here in defiance,” said Michelle Castillo of the Children’s Defense Fund of Texas, to a cheering crowd of thousands in Austin. “To see each other’s humanity. Across race, across party lines.”

[…]

Bishop Joel Martinez of the United Methodist Church told the crowd he was hopeful seeing so many people in attendance. But, he said, nothing will get accomplished unless they go out and vote.

“Those who legislate and govern must answer at the polls for their acts,” he said.

That’s exactly right, and we cannot forget it. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I grew up on horror stories about life on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. So many times we were told about the horrible things that those repressive totalitarian governments did to the people who lived there. Well, the things we’re hearing right now, in our own country, about children being taken by force and deception, parents being told they can only get them back if they agree to be deported, preschoolers appearing by themselves in court – all of them would have been totally plausible if they’d been told about the Soviet Union by Ronald Reagan. I can’t adequately express what a fucking disgrace, embarrassment, travesty this is.

So get angry. Get inspired by the pictures of the protesters. And get fired up to vote in November. ThinkProgress and Daily Kos have more.

The family separation crisis is far from over

For one thing:

Although the zero-tolerance policy was officially announced last month, it has been in effect, in more limited form, since at least last summer. Several months ago, as cases of family separation started surfacing across the country, immigrant-rights groups began calling for the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.), which is in charge of immigration enforcement and border security, to create procedures for tracking families after they are split up. At the time, D.H.S. said that it would address the problem, but there is no evidence that it actually did so. Erik Hanshew, a federal public defender in El Paso, told me that the problems begin at the moment of arrest. “Our client gets arrested with his or her child out in the field. Sometimes they go together at the initial processing, sometimes they get separated right then and there for separate processing,” he said. “When we ask the Border Patrol agents at detention hearings a few days after physical arrest about the information they’ve obtained in their investigation, they tell us that the only thing they know is that the person arrested was with a kid. They don’t seem to know gender, age, or name.”

Jennifer Podkul, who is the policy director of Kids in Need of Defense, told me that advocates are trying to piece together information about the whereabouts of children based on the federal charging documents used in the parent’s immigration case. “You can try to figure out where and when the child was apprehended based on that,” she said. “But where the child is being held often has nothing to do with where she and her parent were arrested. The kids get moved around to different facilities.”

The federal departments involved in dealing with separated families have institutional agendas that diverge. Immigration and Customs Enforcement—the agency at the D.H.S. that handles immigrant parents—is designed to deport people as rapidly as it can, while O.R.R.—the office within the Department of Health and Human Services (H.H.S.) that assumes custody of the kids—is designed to release children to sponsor or foster families in the U.S. Lately, O.R.R. has been moving more slowly than usual, which has resulted in parents getting deported before their children’s cases are resolved. There’s next to no coördination between D.H.S. and H.H.S. “ice detainees are not allowed to receive calls, so any calls need to be individually arranged,” Michelle Brané, of the Women’s Refugee Commission, told me. “A phone call is not a fix for separation. It is a call, often with a very young child. A call is a Band-Aid.” A number of lawyers that I’ve spoken with described personally pressuring individual deportation officers to delay a parent’s deportation until she can be reunified with her child or, failing that, until children and parents can be deported at roughly the same time.

Remember the fuss a couple of weeks ago over Samantha Bee’s use of the c-word? This was the point she had been making, about children being lost in the system by the federal government.

For another thing:

But like so much else in Trumpland, there is how something appears, and how something actually operates in reality. In the hours between the announcement of the order and its actual release, many hailed the change as an about-face—a stunning and rare pivot for a president who has little capacity to admit error. But now that the executive order is out, what is clear is that this document offers no fix at all. The Trump administration intends to trade the practice of separating children while it prosecutes parents for another kind of horror: locking up parents and children together. And, according to the executive order, this new incarceration of families could well be indefinite.

“This Administration will initiate proceedings to enforce…criminal provisions of the INA until and unless Congress directs otherwise,” the executive order lays out. “It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”

[…]

The practice of separating children from their parents is a symptom of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero-tolerance policy” announced this spring. Under Sessions’s new rules, US attorneys now must criminally prosecute every person apprehended while attempting to enter the country between official ports of entry without proper documentation. But because many people come to the United States as families and because there are restrictions on how long children and parents may be held together, the government separated children from their parents, treating separated children as “unaccompanied minors.” The executive order does not affect that zero-tolerance policy at all; those prosecutions will continue.

Parents and babies are still going to be incarcerated while those prosecutions continue; it just appears that now they will be held together. And under the executive order, any public agency, including the Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Defense—which would mean the federal prison system and military bases—must make its facilities available for the incarceration of these families.

What’s more, the executive order announces that the Trump administration intends to petition a court to revisit the landmark 1997 Flores settlement, which set forth minimum conditions for the treatment and detention of migrant children. The centerpiece of Flores requires that children be released from government custody as quickly as possible. Separately, it requires that those who are held have access to education, health care and recreation, and that they not be kept in confinement. The Trump administration wants to dismantle those minimum child-welfare protections so that it can, in the words of the executive order, “detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.”

But, because Flores is still current law, the Department of Homeland Security is still bound by it, and cannot detain children for longer than is absolutely necessary to find a placement for them outside of detention. Therefore, “this Executive Order is a restatement of current policy, which is to prosecute, detain, and quickly deport Central American asylum seekers,” says Kerri Talbot, legislative director for Immigration Hub, a DC-based, pro-immigration umbrella group.

The new executive order is no solution. It’s just another problem, as serious as before. Donald Trump has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s doing it anyway. There’s no cause to celebrate. Don’t let these guys off the hook.

Our typically feckless state leaders

Way to set an example for the rest of us, y’all.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick frequently talk tough about illegal immigration, but they refuse to publicly support the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy that’s spurred outrage for ripping thousands of undocumented children out of the arms of their parents.

Neither are they criticizing it.

Texas’ top Republicans are making a calculated decision to hide from the humanitarian crisis, largely taking place on Texas soil, because they are afraid of upsetting their political base.

The governor has tried to say as little as possible about the White House policy, making only one public comment backing Trump’s argument that the children’s and parents’ traumatic experiences can be used as leverage for an immigration overhaul.

“This is horrible and this rips everyone’s hearts apart about what’s going on,” Abbott told a Dallas-area TV station. He added that Trump had offered to “end the ripping apart of these families” if Democrats agree to a new immigration law.

Abbott declined repeated requests for comment from the Houston Chronicle. Instead, his staff forwarded the statement made last weekend to NBC TV. The governor seeks to appear loyal without attracting attention to himself.

“It shouldn’t be a tightrope to do the right thing,” said John Weaver, a longtime campaign strategist from Texas who has consulted for Republicans like George H.W. Bush and now Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “It’s disappointing that we haven’t heard from the governor but not surprising. We’ve gone from Texas having very strong leaders to having leaders who are very calculating.”

[…]

Patrick never brought up the separation policy or the border when he spoke for half an hour at the Texas Republican Party convention in San Antonio on Friday. His office and campaign have not returned repeated calls for comment.

“Dan Patrick’s silence, in the face of such brutality committed on Texas soil, makes him as culpable as the administration. Morally, it’s as though he wrenched the children from their parents with his own hands,” said Mike Collier, a Democratic businessman running against Patrick for lieutenant governor in November.

As the Lone Star Project noted, Abbott has expressed his support for the Trump detention policy previously, before it became untenable for everyone this side of Ken Paxton and Sid Miller to oppose it. I suppose he and Patrick were just taking their time and hoping this would all go away, as befitting their cowardly natures, but their absence was definitely noticed.

“What is happening on the border tonight is an affront to humanity and to all that we as proud Americans hold dear,” state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, told the American-Statesman Tuesday. “We are better than this. To watch our own governor remain silent in the face of this atrocity is an affront to all that we as Texans hold dear. As a member of the Texas Legislature, I am ashamed that my ‘so called’ leader is so controlled by his fealty to the president’s myopic vision of America that he is frightened like a feeble squirrel from taking action. It is time to act. NOW. Governor Abbott. Can you hear me?”

Both of those stories were from yesterday morning. By around lunchtime, Abbott had been forced out of his spider hole to make a few grudging remarks.

Gov. Greg Abbott is asking Texans in Congress to take bipartisan action to address the crisis of thousands of immigrant children being separated from their parents.

“This disgraceful condition must end; and it can only end with action by Congress to reform the broken immigration system,” he wrote in a letter to all members of the Texas delegation, including Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.

Abbott called family separations, which are the result of a Trump administration policy announced earlier this year, “tragic and heartrending.” But he also called the separations the “latest calamity children suffer because of a broken U.S. border” — and urged members to “seize” the opportunity to work across the aisle and finally fix the problem.

“Texans are not fooled by the partisan divide on this issue,” Abbott wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Texas Tribune. “They know that even if all Republicans agree, a bill fixing the problem will not pass without Democrat support in the Senate.”

Naturally, as befitting his craven nature, Abbott hid behind the lie that Trump was forced into the family separation policy and only Democrats could save him, to which Trump himself quickly put the lie with a hasty afternoon executive order, one that has ulterior motives. But as one Democratic Senator pointed out prior to that, it was easily within the power of even one Republican Senator to force the issue. And if Greg Abbott is sincere about wanting to keep families together and make progress on immigration, here’s a bill he could support. Don’t hold your breath would be my advice. Greg Abbott always, without fail, takes the easiest way out. Vox and ThinkProgress have more.

Mayor Turner says “No!” to the child detention warehouse

Damn right.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner called on the owner of a building east of downtown Houston and the nonprofit hoping to operate the former warehouse as a detention center for immigrant children separated from their families at the nation’s southern border to reconsider their plans.

The mayor also said he is in no rush to issue city permits at the site, and called on the state not to issue a childcare license to the 54,000-square-foot facility two blocks north of BBVA Compass Stadium for use by federal contractor Southwest Key Programs.

Turner, flanked by numerous nonprofit, religious and political leaders, said he wanted to show a unified front to protest the “unjust and immoral policy” the Trump administration began enforcing in April, when a “zero tolerance” approach began driving up the number of children removed from their parents upon crossing the border illegally.

[…]

Turner said he respects the work Southwest Key has done in the past, noting that he worked with the group’s leaders during his time in the Texas Legislature, but the mayor said these circumstances are objectionable and proclaimed he will not “be an enabler” in this process.

“I’ve done my best to try to stay clear of the national dialogue on many issues. I’ve done my best to try to focus on the issues that confront the city of Houston, recognizing that we need the partnership of the national — the feds — the state, working with the city,” Turner said. “This one is different. There comes a time when Americans, when Houstonians, when Texans have to say to those higher than ourselves: This is wrong. This is just wrong.”

You know how I feel about this. The city can take all the time it wants, double- and triple-checking on the permit, because Lord knows the state doesn’t give a damn. Everyone on Council should be behind the Mayor on this as well. It shouldn’t be that hard for anyone to do, since even a bunch of Republican members of Congress are not happy with the forced separation of children from their parentsnot that they’ll do anything about it, of course – with the notable exception of that paragon of virtue, Ken Paxton. Just don’t be fooled by Ted Cruz. The Trib and Texas Monthly have more.

UPDATE: The longer version of the story suggests how the city might slow-walk this.

Asked by a reporter if he planned to “slow-walk” the permitting process, Turner smiled. He said city fire inspectors have not visited the property and that health inspectors have yet to grant a food service permit. Code enforcement officials already have granted a certificate of occupancy, affirming that the facility meets the minimum requirements to operate as a “dormitory/shelter,” though Houston Public Works spokeswoman Alanna Reed said the paperwork connected with that application made no mention of Southwest Key, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement or the plan to house children at the site.

Health department director Stephen Williams said there are “certain deficiencies” at the site that would need to be corrected before a permit is issued. Fire Chief Sam Pena said switching from housing adults to housing children will require a more thorough review than what the city fire marshal’s office conducted when the facility served as a shelter after Harvey.

“If it’s primarily children, having enough people there to ensure proper evacuation, proper access, because you’re dealing with a different type of juvenile person,” Pena said. “We’re going to be meticulous and judicious as far as our inspections, especially for the proposed use of this, but it’s nothing different than what we’d do for any other business.”

These things do take time, you know.

Say “No!” to warehousing “tender age” children

We cannot allow this.

The large vacant warehouse in downtown Houston has housed women and families who were once homeless and adults displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

Until now, however, it has never sheltered small children who are on their own in a strange country, many of them separated from their parents who were jailed after illegally crossing the southern border.

Southwest Key Programs, a Texas nonprofit that has a lucrative contract with the federal government to care for thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children, confirmed Friday it has signed a lease with the owner of the warehouse at 419 Emancipation Ave.

Its application with the state requests a general residential operating license to hold up to 240 children between the ages of “0 to 17.” Several stakeholders who work with immigrant minors said they have been told the facility would largely serve “tender age” children who are younger than 12, as well as pregnant and nursing teenagers.

[…]

Federal officials said Friday about 2,000 children have been separated from their parents between mid-April, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new zero-tolerance policy, and the end of May.

The sudden surge has overwhelmed the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which now has more than 11,400 children in their care in about 100 shelters across the country that are almost full. The ORR has issued calls to agencies that run such facilities for the government to see if they can increase their capacity and are considering housing children in tent-like structures on military bases, including in Texas.

“They are being required to house increasingly large numbers of very young children … who should have never gone to (the agency) in the first place,” said Jennifer Podkul, director of policy for Kids in Need of Defense, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group that provides services to unaccompanied minors.

Keeping such young children in a residential facility like the one proposed in Houston would represent a sharp shift from previous practice.

“My understanding is that the kids would be sleeping at this facility in Houston, and that’s surprising and would be a different structure than we’ve ever seen before for this type of population,” she said. “This would be the first one.”

Small children and pregnant teenagers are usually placed with foster parents who work with specialized organizations that contract with the federal government to provide such care. The minors spend their nights in a foster home and their days in a licensed facility for children, where they are provided services such as medical and legal screenings.

“Traditionally the government has relied on families and supported homestays for this population because of their special needs,” Podkul said. “Very young children can’t sleep through the night all the time. They have physical limitations because of their size. … I don’t know how you provide for that in such a large facility.”

This so-called “shelter” would be one of these:

In South Texas, pediatricians started sounding the alarm weeks ago as migrant shelters began filling up with younger children separated from their parents after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

The concerned pediatricians contacted Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and she flew to Texas and visited a shelter for migrant children in the Rio Grande Valley. There, she saw a young girl in tears. “She couldn’t have been more than 2 years old,” Kraft says. “Just crying and pounding and having a huge, huge temper tantrum. This child was just screaming, and nobody could help her. And we know why she was crying. She didn’t have her mother. She didn’t have her parent who could soothe her and take care of her.”

The number of migrant children in U.S. government custody is soaring — partly the result of a policy decision by the Trump administration to separate children from their parents who are being prosecuted for unlawful entry. Hundreds of the children being held in shelters are under age 13.

Medical professionals, members of Congress and religious leaders are calling on the Trump administration to stop separating migrant families. They question whether these shelter facilities are appropriate for younger children.

[…]

Pediatricians and immigrant advocates are warning that separating migrant children from their families can cause “toxic stress” that disrupts a child’s brain development and harms long-term health.

At the facility in South Texas, Kraft says, the staff told her that federal regulations prevented them from touching or holding the child to soothe her.

While shelter managers and other experts say there is no such rule, Kraft says the confusion underscores why these shelters are not the right place for young children — especially kids who have fled dangerous countries and who have just been separated from their parents. “By separating parents and children, we are doing irreparable harm to these children. The long-term concern of what we call toxic stress is that brains are not developed efficiently or effectively,” Kraft says. “And these children go on to have behavior problems, to have long-term medical problems.”

This is cruel and inhumane, and it is being done as a matter of deliberate policy. What kind of people want to separate parents from their children like this? CM Robert Gallegos, in whose district this would be, wrote this on Facebook:

The mayor will host a press conference early next week regarding the federal government’s proposal. While the City was not involved in the decision or notified beforehand, we will advocate for these children and do all we can to ensure they are cared for with compassion and dignity. Children should be with their families, not warehoused in a detention center hundreds of miles away from their parents. The Trump administration’s inhumane policy of separating families is shameful and goes against the very values our nation was founded on.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia released this statement:

This week it was discovered that federal authorities, in conjunction with contracted private partners, have signed a lease to open a baby jail to detain child immigrants just east of downtown Houston. State Senator Sylvia Garcia issued the following statement in reaction:

“Now is the time to gather together to stop this baby jail before a single child seeking refuge is locked up in our city. The Trump administration has made it clear that it will rip children away from their parents despite legal and child development experts telling them that it is unnecessary and known to cause lifelong harm. No law requires this. Humanity demands compassion. We must say as a community with one voice that jailing children away from their parents is wrong, it should not happen anywhere, and we as Houstonians will not allow it to happen here. Not now. Not ever.”

We need to hear from all of our elected officials. This is an abomination, and we cannot let it happen.

Look for the helpers

They’re at the airports now.

Luis Ruiz, an immigration attorney with his own practice, set up shop early Sunday at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

He’d seen news of attorneys around the country flocking to airports to help people detained under the terms of the executive order President Donald Trump issued Friday, and he figured duty called. So he arrived at IAH around 9 a.m., the first attorney of what would become a sizable legal operation, and set off searching for clients to counsel pro bono.

“It’s been escalating,” he said Sunday night. “People just started showing up.”

By the evening, they ran an impromptu law office at the tables of a Starbucks amid deafening chants of hundreds of protesters in the arrivals area of the international terminal. More than 30 Houston lawyers specializing in immigration, personal injury, consumer protection, environment, civil law and more, pecked away on keyboards and interviewed family members of those who’d been detained inside the terminal.

[…]

The lawyers gathered at Starbucks fanned out in search of waiting worried people who might be relatives of those detained. They offered their services and helped put them in touch with U.S. Customs and Border Protection for answers on the status of their loved ones. In isolated cases, lawyers said they were willing to electronically file an emergency habeas petition to a federal court to ask a judge to immediately stop a detention.

Aside from that, however, they acknowledged they have few effective options.

“The problem is there is no right to counsel. We don’t have ability to access potential clients,” [Geoffrey Hoffman, director of the immigration clinic at the University of Houston Law Center] said.

People who couldn’t help in that fashion gathered elsewhere.

Hundreds of chanting anti-Trump protesters swarmed George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Sunday, packing Terminal E to capacity until police barred entry to non-ticket holders. Dozens of pro-bono lawyers set up camp at a nearby Starbucks to help passengers who had gotten detained.

“There’s a lot of fear in the community,” said Arsalan Safiuallah, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations who attended the IAH protest. “I’m upset because I don’t think this is constitutional.”

Yehiya Aljuboory, a 29-year-old Iraqi man detained en route to Houston after traveling abroad, was held at IAH for nearly four hours Sunday. “Is it a crime to travel to visit your family?” asked his worried friend, 28-year-old Mohammed Jalil. “Only because he is Muslim.”

Earlier in the day, roughly 1,000 people gathered in downtown, just steps away from Super Bowl festivities, to make their voices heard. The divisive order resonated deeply in Houston, where more than 20 percent of people were foreign-born in 2013, according to nonpartisan think tank the Migration Policy Institute.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the city as galvanized as this,” said Houston resident Bev Caplan, 39, who protested at Discovery Green.

A small reminder of who is being hurt by the actions of our deranged “leader”:

A woman traveling to Indiana to care for her cancer-stricken mother, a family physician who has lived in the U.S. for two decades, and a Minneapolis woman about to become a U.S. citizen were among those caught in the net cast by President Donald Trump when he banned travelers from entering the country from Muslim-majority nations.

We should heed the words of former Bush administration official Eliot Cohen.

To friends still thinking of serving as political appointees in this administration, beware: When you sell your soul to the Devil, he prefers to collect his purchase on the installment plan. Trump’s disregard for either Secretary of Defense Mattis or Secretary-designate Tillerson in his disastrous policy salvos this week, in favor of his White House advisers, tells you all you need to know about who is really in charge. To be associated with these people is going to be, for all but the strongest characters, an exercise in moral self-destruction.

For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.

[…]

There is in this week’s events the foretaste of things to come. We have yet to see what happens when Trump tries to use the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to destroy his opponents. He thinks he has succeeded in bullying companies, and he has no compunction about bullying individuals, including those with infinitely less power than himself. His advisers are already calling for journalists critical of the administration to be fired: Expect more efforts at personal retribution. He has demonstrated that he intends to govern by executive orders that will replace the laws passed by the people’s representatives.

In the end, however, he will fail. He will fail because however shrewd his tactics are, his strategy is terrible—The New York Times, the CIA, Mexican Americans, and all the others he has attacked are not going away. With every act he makes new enemies for himself and strengthens their commitment; he has his followers, but he gains no new friends. He will fail because he cannot corrupt the courts, and because even the most timid senator sooner or later will say “enough.” He will fail most of all because at the end of the day most Americans, including most of those who voted for him, are decent people who have no desire to live in an American version of Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, or Viktor Orban’s Hungary, or Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

There are things we can do. Show up and protest if you have the capability. Offer your professional services if they are relevant – see this handy resource from the Houston Bar Association if you’re an attorney. Donate money to groups like the ACLU and the International Rescue Committee; there are other good options as well. Call John Cornyn and Ted Cruz at one of their local offices and tell them what you think. (If you can get through – it was nothing but busy signals for me today, and all the postings I see on Facebook say it’s either that or full voicemail boxes. Try anyway, you never know.) Add Mike McCaul to that list, too, especially if you live in CD10. Do something while you still can. Texas Monthly, Political Animal, ThinkProgress, and the Press have more.

State moves to withdraw Syrian refugee lawsuit

Good, though at this point it probably doesn’t matter.

A week after the state officially withdrewfrom the nation’s refugee resettlement program, Texas has moved to end its legal battle over Syrian refugees.

In a short, three-page motion, Texas on Friday asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the state’s appeal of a federal judge’s June decision that threw out the state’s case after finding Texas did not have grounds to sue the federal government over the resettlement of refugees within its borders.

In August, Texas alerted the appellate court that it intended to appeal the decision. But since then, the state announced that it would no longer participate in the federal refugee resettlement program, which helps thousands of refugees from around the world resettle in the state. (Refugees will continue to be relocated here.)

[…]

Donna Duvin, executive director of the International Rescue Committee’s Dallas branch, said the AG’s decision “reinforces” that refugee resettlement in Texas “is perfectly lawful.”

“The move also aligns with what’s actually happening in Texas communities, where refugees typically are warmly welcomed and supported as they rebuild their lives here,” Duvin said in a statement.

See here, here, and here for some background. As the story notes, many private groups are taking on the work that our ever-so-Christian Governor and Attorney General refuse to have any part of. Since they made that decision, and since they had consistently gotten their butts kicked in court on this, they decided to cut their losses and move on to the next ridiculous ideological crusade. And so it goes.

Greg Abbott does not speak for all Texans on refugees

Lots of people are moved to offer assistance to those who most need it.

Nonprofits that resettle refugees say volunteer turnout has increased — in some cases dramatically — since Texas Republicans first suggested they threatened security.

“It’s one of those rare issues where people’s hearts are really united in supporting refugees,” said Chris Kelley, a spokesman for Refugee Services of Texas, the state’s largest resettlement nonprofit with offices in five different cities. “And I think they see through the rhetoric.”

Kelley said his agency had about 100 names on its Austin volunteer list on Nov. 1 of last year, shortly before state leaders started trying to keep out Syrian refugees. That number has since ballooned to more than 1,400.

The group’s Austin chapter now has 30 “welcome teams,” volunteers who pick up newly arrived refugees from the airport, set up their apartments, help them navigate the town and assist in other ways. That is up from 14 teams in late 2015.

At its other locations — in Amarillo, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston — the nonprofit says growth in volunteering has ranged from 30 to 50 percent over the same period.

That new interest has hit in waves, Kelley said, including in November, immediately after Abbott announced that “Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees.”

The growth is not limited to that agency. Officials at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston say they are seeing more volunteers each month. The group trained just seven volunteers in July but saw 21 newcomers in September and expects 35 more in October. Meanwhile, annual donations for those services have more than doubled over the past year.

Interest has grown partly because the organization has made more targeted requests but also “because people just want to help,” said Martin Cominsky, the group’s president and CEO, who suggested that even more Texans would volunteer if state leaders offered a more welcoming tone.

It’s a good thing that individual people with consciences have stepped up, because the state of Texas has now officially withdrawn itself from the refugee resettlement program. Which won’t actually do a thing to stop refugees from being resettled here, but probably makes Greg Abbott feel better about himself. Or something. I have no idea.

You know how I feel about Abbott and Paxton’s chest-thumping on this. So I just want to note for the record that Abbott and Paxton stand in stark contrast with the faith community on this issue. We already know that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops calls on “all Catholics in the United States and others of good will to express openness and welcome to these [Syrian] refugees”, not that it has had any effect on Abbott’s self-professed Catholicism. Other groups have now taken their appeals directly to Abbott. For example, every single Episcopal bishop in Texas:

Texas leads the nation in refugee resettlement, and a decision to pull out of the refugee resettlement program after nearly 40 years of peaceful participation is inconsistent with our proud history of welcoming refugees.

More than that, as Christians, we follow a Lord who calls us to care for those who suffer and to show our love for God by loving our neighbor. Our Scriptures teach us that in caring for “the least among us” we are caring for Jesus, and that “Perfect love casts out fear.” We stand in the Abrahamic tradition that insists on generous hospitality toward strangers and sojourners.

While vigilance against terrorism is a real concern, Gov. Abbott’s decision reacts fearfully and broadly against the wrong people, most of whom have given up everything to escape violence and terror and find freedom among us. This decision does not reflect the overwhelmingly welcoming spirit from faith and community partners across Texas. Every day we see Texans practicing their commitment to courage and hospitality by welcoming refugee families and helping them become Texans and Americans.

Also, too, a coalition of seventy (and counting) rabbis in Texas:

We, Rabbis from across Texas, urge you to continue to welcome refugees and not withdraw from the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. At this moment, with the number of refugees and displaced persons at its highest in recorded history, it is more important than ever for Texas to protect and welcome refugees.

Since its founding, the United States has offered refuge and protection to the world’s most vulnerable. Time and time again, those refugees were Jews. Whether they were welcomed to Texas by the “Galveston Movement” after fleeing Czarist Russia, or whether they came later following the horrors of the Holocaust, or the persecution in Soviet Russia or Iran, our relatives and friends found safety in this country, and in the great state of Texas.

Of course, I don’t expect this to have any more effect on Abbott than the USCCB’s position. He doesn’t care, and you can’t make him. I just want to note this for the next time Abbott brandishes his faith for political purposes. Like pretty much everyone else in the country if not the world, Abbott uses his faith when it’s politically convenient for him to do so, and he drops it like a bad habit when it’s not. We should all be clear on this.

We continue to cower in fear of Syrian refugees

Sheesh.

As part of its ongoing fight to keep Syrian refugees out of the state, Texas is threatening to withdraw from the nation’s refugee resettlement program if federal officials refuse to “unconditionally approve” a state plan requiring additional vetting of relocated people.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday said the state had informed the Office of Refugee Resettlement that it would leave the program unless the feds approved its plan to only accept refugees who “are fully vetted and do not present a security threat.”

“Despite multiple requests by the state of Texas, the federal government lacks the capability or the will to distinguish the dangerous from the harmless, and Texas will not be an accomplice to such dereliction of duty to the American people,” Abbott said in a statement.

[…]

In November, Abbott directed resettlement nonprofits in Texas to stop accepting Syrian refugees — a move the feds said Texas didn’t have the authority to make. The state has sued the feds over Syrian refugees and seen its case dismissed, though an appeal is working its way through the courts.

Meanwhile, Texas and U.S. officials have been negotiating refugee resettlement plans for the 2017 federal fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. Aside from the request for security assurances, Texas officials said they previously rejected a proposal by the U.S. State Department to increase the number of refugees resettled in Texas by 25 percent. They said they would only accept the same number of refugees relocated to Texas in the 2016 federal fiscal year: 7,633.

If Texas withdraws from the federal refugee resettlement program, it doesn’t mean refugees would stop flowing to the state; the federal government could distribute money directly to nonprofit groups here. Resettlement officials have said the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980 allows the federal government to designate an entity other than a state government to serve as the state refugee coordinator and disburse funding — a set-up currently in place in six states.

See here, here, and here for some background. The state didn’t just sue the feds, it also sued the International Rescue Committee non-profit, which remains the most mind-boggling part of this. I mean, these were and are religious non-profits doing this work. Can you imagine the uproar from Abbott et al if it were the feds meddling in the affairs of those religious non-profits? You don’t have to imagine it – the state is more than happy to join the fray on their behalf when it involves things like health care and birth control. Because that’s clearly what Jesus would do. (Just a reminder: The Catholic Church calls for welcoming Syrian refugees in America. Keep that in mind the next time you hear something about Greg Abbott’s self-professed Catholic faith.)

Anyway. This is unlikely to have much practical effect – as the story notes, the feds can provide assistance to something other than the state government, so it’s just a matter of having a different middleman. Mostly, what this does is tell us something about our state leaders. To be sure, it’s something we already knew. Texas Monthly and the Chron have more.

State appeals dismissal of anti-refugee lawsuit

Because of course it does.

Texas is appealing the dismissal of its lawsuit against the federal government and a refugee resettlement agency over the placement of Syrian refugees in the state.

In a notice dated Aug. 12, Texas alerted the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that it would appeal a June decision by Dallas-based U.S. District Judge David Godbey, who ruled the state did not have grounds to sue the federal government over the placement of refugees in Texas and that the state failed to provide a “plausible claim” that a refugee resettlement nonprofit breached its contract.

[…]

In his dismissal of the case in June, Godbey reiterated that the state “lacks a cause of action” to enforce that consultation requirement.

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the case.

In a statement, Jennifer Sime, a senior vice president with the International Rescue Committee, said the group is confident the court will again rule against the state.

“We’re disappointed that some Texas officials are wasting time and resources to re-litigate what a judge has already deemed to be unwarranted action to block Syrian refugees from entering the state,” Sime said.

See here for the background, and here for a copy of the appeal. Not really much to add here – I stand by all the things I’ve said before in this case. And I continue to utterly fail to comprehend the lack of compassion from our elected leaders. The Current has more.

State still resisting refugees

Because of course we are.

The federal government wants Texas to accept more than 2,000 additional refugees this year. Texas’ response: No thank you.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is putting the federal government on notice that the state will refuse to take in more refugees than it did last year and will accept only those who do not pose a security risk.

Texas on Friday submitted to the U.S. Department of State a 2017 state plan for refugee resettlement, rejecting the federal government’s proposal to increase the number of refugees moving to the Lone Star State by 25 percent.

“Texas continues to have concerns about the safety of its citizens and the integrity of the overseas security and background vetting process of the federal resettlement program,” Executive Commissioner Charles Smith wrote in a letter to the U.S. Department of State. “Americans face an undeniable terrorist threat that is imported through new manipulations of our national security protocols each day.”

According to Smith’s letter, the federal government is proposing to place 11,020 refugees in Texas during fiscal 2017, an increase of 25 percent over the projected fiscal 2016 figure. Smith wrote that the proposed funding is insufficient, as well, and concludes the state could accept a maximum of 8,605 refugees. It is unclear how many refugees have been placed this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

[…]

The state could land itself in court should it try to stop refugees from moving to Texas, said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, which represented the nonprofit International Rescue Committee in the case.

“In the course of this litigation, the Attorney General’s Office has acknowledged the state has no legal authority to block anyone from being settled in Texas. If the state attempts to do so, its actions would be illegal,” she said.

Refugees go through a strict vetting process in order to make their way into the U.S. and Syrians are subject to additional levels of review, according to Jennifer Sime, senior vice president of U.S. program for IRC, the resettlement agency front and center in the lawsuit.

“These are very vulnerable people who are fleeing violence and persecution and they’re coming here to live a safe and peaceful life,” she said. “We want to be able to support them in that process.”

See here for a reminder of the legalities. I’m just going to say this: I never, ever want to hear about how Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton are motivated or influenced by their Christian faith again. The “What Would Jesus Do?” question has an answer that is blindingly obvious to anyone with even a rudimentary acquaintance with the Bible, and it’s the exact opposite of what these guys would do and have done. Specifically on the question of Syrian refugees, the President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops “[urges] all Catholics in the United States and others of good will to express openness and welcome to these refugees, who are escaping desperate situations in order to survive. Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons—made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution”. Greg Abbott, our Catholic Governor, does not come close to doing this. This is Christianity 101, and they all get a big fat zero. These guys cite their religious beliefs when it’s politically expedient for them to do so, and ignore them all other times. It’s hypocrisy at its most basic level, and they should all be called on it.

Texas anti-refugee lawsuit dismissed

Good.

Texas on Thursday lost its fight against the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state, ending a months-long battle during which refugees from the war-torn country continued to arrive.

Dealing the final blow to Gov. Greg Abbott’s effort to keep Syrian refugees out of the state, a federal judge dismissed Texas’ lawsuit against the federal government and a refugee resettlement agency over the resettlement of the refugees.

In an order dated Wednesday and released Thursday, Dallas-based U.S. District Judge David Godbey said the state did not have grounds to sue the federal government over this and failed to provide a “plausible claim” that a refugee resettlement nonprofit breached its contract.

The judge’s dismissal comes after several failed attempts by state Attorney General Ken Paxton to block the arrival of Syrian refugees to the state. Texas first filed suit in December against the federal government and the International Rescue Committee — one of about 20 private nonprofits that have a state contract to resettle refugees in Texas — saying they were violating federal law by moving forward with the planned resettlement of Syrian refugees.

[…]

Paxton’s office in December dropped its first request for an order to block the resettlement of two Syrian families that arrived in Houston and Dallas that month. Godbey then knocked down a second request to bar nine other Syrian refugees from arriving in Texas. But the state moved forward with its lawsuit, saying the federal government was required to consult with the state in advance of any additional refugee placements.

Godbey on Thursday reiterated in his ruling that the state “lacks a cause of action” to enforce that consultation requirement.

Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee celebrated the win. The judge’s dismissal “upholds and affirms” the United States’ history of providing refuge for those fleeing violence, Jennifer Sime, a senior vice president with the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement.

“The court is unequivocal in validating the lawfulness of the refugee resettlement program and reaffirms Texas’ legacy in welcoming refugees,” Sime added.

See here for the background. Just a reminder, it’s faith-based organizations that have been the ones working to resettle the refugees in Texas. It all has to do with that biblical what-would-Jesus-do stuff that Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton love to talk about when it suits their political agenda, but only then. In the meantime, over 200 Syrian refugees have been relocated to Texas, and the earth has continued to rotate on its axis. Let this now be the end of this foolishness.

Paxton opines on Syrian refugees

Whatever.

Attorney General Ken Paxton sought Tuesday to bolster the state’s thus-far unsuccessful efforts to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in Texas by issuing a legal opinion that stresses the state’s rights in the matter.

His opinion, which doesn’t carry the force of law, said any conditions placed on the state’s acceptance of federal refugee dollars would likely be unenforceable. He added that there are no laws stopping the state from doing security checks when allocating those funds.

But some constitutional experts were quick to tamp down the gambit’s practical import.

Pointing out that a federal judge has twice rejected the state’s efforts to block Syrian refugee resettlement, some predicted that the opinion, if tested, would meet a similar fate. And experts added that Paxton’s stance fits a broader conservative effort to constrain the federal government.

“It’s not anything particularly new,” said Samuel Bagenstos, a constitutional law professor at the University of Michigan School of Law. “I just don’t think it’s an effort that’s likely to be successful.”

[…]

Paxton said that any conditions attached to federal refugee dollars would likely be unenforceable since few restrictions are found in the text of federal law. Rather, those standards have been established by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“In delegating this authority to a federal agency, Congress itself has failed to provide clear notice to the states about the conditions it is attaching to a state’s acceptance of federal refugee dollars,” Paxton wrote in his opinion.

Bagenstos, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, said that follows an argument that conservative state attorneys general have been making for years, often in relation to federal education dollars. But he said recent case law has rejected that kind of argument.

See here and here for the most recent updates. The state sought but failed to get a preliminary injunction barring the feds from placing refugees here. I haven’t seen any further news to indicate that Paxton has pursued this further in the courts. Clearly, he’ll get a better deal from his own office, and someone asked him for an opinion, so here we are. Hope he didn’t use the good paper printing it out, it’ll be less painful when this has to go to the shredder. The Chron has more.

State strikes out on Syrian refugees again

Too bad. Now give up already.

A federal judge has again denied a bid by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to block the federal government from resettling Syrian refugees in the state.

Dallas-based U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey on Monday rejected Paxton’s request for a preliminary injunction to bar the Syrian refugees, dealing another blow to Gov. Greg Abbott’s vow — made in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead — to keep people fleeing the war-torn country out of Texas.

“The Court does not deny that the Syrian refugees pose some risk. That would be foolish,” Godbey wrote. “In our country, however, it is the federal executive that is charged with assessing and mitigating that risk, not the states and not the courts.”

The court cannot “interfere with the executive’s discharge of its foreign affairs and national security duties based on a possibility of a harm,” and Texas failed to prove that refugee resettlement poses a “substantial threat of irreparable injury,” Godbey wrote.

[…]

The state’s next move is unclear; Wise said the AG’s office is “currently evaluating” its legal options moving forward. In his ruling, Godbey said Texas is unlikely to succeed in the lawsuit because it has “no viable cause of action” against the federal government.

See here, here, and here for the background, and here for a copy of Judge Godbey’s order. There’s still the matter of the other filing, in which Texas complained that the Obama administration had failed to give the state the seven days notice it was supposed to before resettling other families; the Justice Department has since apologized and claimed it has gotten back into compliance. I kind of doubt that changes anything in the big picture, but a slap on the wrist of some kind may be forthcoming. I don’t know what the state will do next, but giving up quietly seems unlikely, so we’ll see. The Chron and Trail Blazers have more.

Paxton takes another shot at Syrian refugees

Whatever.

In the latest controversy over Syrians seeking refuge in Texas, the state’s top lawyer on Tuesday again asked a federal judge to halt the resettlement of people fleeing the war-torn country.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told a U.S. district judge that the federal government should be temporarily barred from placing Syrian refugees in Texas after federal officials admitted they failed to provide the state with advance notice of a refugee family resettled in the state last week.

In a filing to Dallas-based U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey, Paxton said the Obama administration failed to notify Texas leaders about the resettlement of a seven-person family at least seven days in advance of their arrival — contrary to a federal court’s order, according to the attorney general’s office.

The government instead informed the judge about the resettlement the day the family arrived in Houston on Jan. 22.

In their notice to the court, lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice said they “acknowledge and sincerely apologize” for not providing state leaders with notice about the resettlement.

“The failure to provide the required notice on the instant occasion was inadvertent, not intentional, and apparently occurred because of miscommunications among personnel within the Department of State,” they wrote.

Paxton also said the federal government broke the law by failing to provide adequate information about a new group of Syrian refugees that were scheduled to arrive in Texas on Monday.

The U.S. State Department’s list of refugee arrival shows 10 Syrians have resettled in Texas so far this year, all in Houston. The agency did provide adequate notice for three of those 10 refugees, according to court documents.

“The Obama administration continues settling Syrian refugees in our neighborhoods and communities under a cloak of secrecy,” Paxton said in a prepared statement. “The threat to our communities by foreign terrorists is real.”

See here for all past blogging on this topic. I’ll stipulate that the Justice Department screwed up here, and have earned a rap on the knuckles from the judge. But jeez, the bed-wetting fear from Paxton in that brief is just unbecoming. I guess it’s a good thing no one wears those “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets any more, because I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t like the answer.

Paxton’s latest Syrian refugee brief

A bit of a reach, if you ask me.

In response to the recent arrest of an Iraqi refugee who is facing charges of attempting to help the Islamic State, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a new court document Friday in a renewed effort to keep some refugees from being resettled in Texas.

Paxton’s brief came a week after the indictment of Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, who came to Houston from Iraq in 2009. He was indicted on three charges, including attempting to provide support to a designated terrorist organization. He pleaded not guilty to all three charges during a court appearance on Wednesday.

The recent arrest in Houston illustrates “the type of security risk to our schools and our communities that we must prevent,” Paxton said in a news release, noting that Texas resettles more refugees than any other state.

“(T)here is a significant difference between refugees and terrorists posing as refugees to infiltrate America and cause mass devastation,” he said. “The safety and security of Texans must always come first.”

The brief seeks to ensure Texas can get needed information to protect its citizens, Paxton said.

See here and here for the background, and here for a copy of the brief. Not clear to me what the one has to do with the other here, but I guess Paxton’s gonna do what Paxton’s gonna do. Still no word about when we will get a hearing to determine the final outcome on the injunction request, but one hopes it will be soon. Trail Blazers has more.

Syrian refugee litigation update

From Trail Blazers:

The legal jousting continues over Texas’ effort to bar the settlement of Syrian refugees in the state.

Attorneys for the federal government and an aid agency this week filed briefs reiterating their opposition to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit over the matter. The aid group, the International Rescue Committee, asked that the suit against them be dismissed.

The filings cover little new ground in the dispute, which began after Gov. Greg Abbott in November said Syrian refugees would not be allowed in Texas. He and others cited concerns, after the Paris attacks, that terrorists might infiltrate the refugee program.

But U.S. Justice Department attorneys this week defended the refugee vetting process and rejected the state’s claims. They added that an injunction would “frustrate” the government’s efforts to “address the worst refugee crisis seen in a generation.”

Such a result would be “contrary to both the nation’s proud tradition of welcoming the world’s most vulnerable people to our shores, and the clear intent of the Refugee Act,” the attorneys wrote.

[…]

U.S. District Judge David Godbey ultimately denied the emergency action, saying the evidence offered by the state was “largely speculative hearsay.” But he also asked for additional information before ruling on the state’s underlying request for an injunction.

See here for the background. The filings in question can be seen at the link. We may get the hearing for this in the next week or two, but as yet no date has been set. I’m sure there will be more paperwork to come before then.

Cruz to help Abbott give refugees a kick

If at first you don’t succeed

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas introduced legislation Tuesday to give governors the power to opt out of refugee replacements if they believe there are security risks.

Cruz introduced the bill at a news conference in Washington, D.C., with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been one of the most vocal of about 30 governors who have announced they would like to block refugees from Syria in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.

[…]

“This legislation will protect the authority of the states and the authority of the governors to keep their citizens safe,” Cruz said of his proposal.

Abbott said at the news conference that Cruz had come up with the bill after speaking with him late last week.

“America is a charitable nation, but we cannot allow charity for some to compromise the safety for all,” Abbott said.

The good news is that this isn’t going to go anywhere. The bad news is that we’re still stuck with these two until at least 2018. And no, I don’t expect Ted Cruz to be elected President in 2016, which is about the only scenario under which a bill like this would pass. If we find ourselves in that scenario, however, we’ll have much bigger things to worry about. The Trib, TPM, and the Current have more.

State strikes out again on Syrian refugees

0 for 2 and counting.

A judge on Wednesday denied a renewed attempt by Texas officials to block nine Syrian refugees from entering the state, describing the state’s safety concerns as “largely speculative hearsay.”

“The (state) has failed to show by competent evidence that any terrorists actually have infiltrated the refugee program, much less that these particular refugees are terrorists intent on causing harm,” U.S. District Judge David Godbey wrote in the two-page ruling.

The ruling came just hours after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a request for an emergency order blocking the nine refugees — a couple and their six children as well as a woman seeking to be reunited with her mother — who are scheduled to come to Houston.

The request was another stunning about-face for Paxton, who last week withdrew a similar request just two days after filing it.

In a court filing, the Republican said he filed the new motion after hearing two public speeches by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee and receiving a sworn statement from Texas Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Robert Bodisch.

“Evidence came to light after (a hearing earlier this week) that terrorist organizations have infiltrated the very refugee program that is central to the dispute,” Paxton wrote.

It was unclear if Paxton was only seeking more information about the refugees, as his office said would be his priority going forward, or if he had completely changed his mind and decided to try blocking refugees altogether due to pressure from colleagues such as Gov. Greg Abbott.

See here for the previous update. Lord only knows what was going through Paxton’s head, but it might be interesting if someone asked Mike McCaul, who has been reasonably pragmatic of late, what he thinks of Paxton’s filing. Be that as it may, let’s hope this is the end of it till January. You can see Paxton’s TRO request here, and Judge Godbey’s denial here. The Trib and Trail Blazers have more.

No hearing on request to bar refugees till January

So much for that.

A Dallas-based federal judge has denied a request by Texas state officials for an expedited hearing regarding Syrian refugees and will not rule on the case until mid-January at the earliest.

Judge David Godbey informed lawyers involved in the case of his decision in a closed-door conference Monday morning, according to Rebecca Robertson of the ACLU of Texas, which is representing the International Rescue Committee, the nonprofit that, along with the federal government, is being sued by the state.

A case docket posted online indicates the “status conference” lasted 15 minutes.

Robertson said the judge requested more briefs from both sides by Jan. 12 and indicated he would not issue a ruling until after that date.

The judge’s decision should ensure that dozens of Syrian refugees can be resettled in Texas over the next few weeks — including 21 this week — although that already was likely after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last Friday withdrew a motion requesting an emergency order barring refugees.

An amended lawsuit filed by Paxton’s office Monday confirmed that he now is more interested in learning more information about Syrian refugees, rather than blocking them from entering the state. That surprising reversal seems at odds with Gov. Greg Abbott, who has maintained that he opposes Syrian refugees due to security fears inflamed by the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.

See here, here, and here for the background. That change of direction by Paxton is indeed surprising, though at this time I don’t have any other information about it. Change in tactics, genuine philosophical disagreement, something else? Whatever the case, it looks like Greg Abbott’s bluff was successfully called. The Trib and TPM have more.

Texas drops request for emergency order on Syrian refugees

It’s something.

Texas officials have withdrawn their request for an emergency order blocking a group of Syrian refugees from entering the state and instead are seeking a broader hearing next week on how closely the federal government coordinates with the state on refugee resettlement.

The move almost certainly will allow two Syrian refugees families scheduled to enter the state Monday to arrive and could signal that the state may not stand in the way of future placements.

Attorney General Ken Paxton made the move in a two-sentence court filing Friday, the same day that Dallas-based federal judge David Godbey had been expected to rule on the emergency order request.

In a statement, Paxton explained he had withdrawn the request for an emergency order because federal officials had provided additional information on the refugees that the state had requested. He did not specify what the state had received.

It’s 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 that are on their way can be taken care of.

In the meantime, the organizations trying to help these refugees have filed their response to the lawsuit.

The International Rescue Committee filed opposition this morning to a state of Texas agency’s request to halt resettlement of a Syrian refugee family of six and others, arguing the state didn’t show “irreparable harm.”

Dallas-based U.S. District Judge David Godbey could rule as soon as today on the request of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for a temporary restraining order. The Syrian family is already in New York, said the IRC, one of nine federal resettlement contractors with the U.S. State Department.

“Plaintiff has made no showing that these refugees pose any threat, much less an imminent one, to the safety or security of Texas residents or any other Americans,” the brief and federal filings said.

The brief said that the Texas state agency seeks “unwarranted veto power over individual federal refugee resettlement decisions.”

The IRC attorneys said that the state agency made no showing of “statutory right or of imminent irreparable injury, that would justify such interference with the federal government’s authority.”

[…]

The federal filing notes, that since fiscal year 2011, 243 Syrian refugees have resettled in Texas. “Yet plaintiff does not explain how these specific refugees, mostly children, their parents and in one case their grandparents–pose a danger to anyone anywhere, let alone to the state of Texas. Nor can any supporting evidence be found in plaintiff’s exhibits…” the brief read.

Delaying the resettlement of the refugees, the brief said, “would prolong their suffering and inflict further hardship upon them that is unjustified by any demonstration of harm by plaintiff.”

The ACLU and the feds also joined in; you can see a copy of the feds’ response, as well as the state’s withdrawal request, here.

It must be noted that the state’s case to block the refugees is laughably weak.

The attempt to bar Syrians from Texas, supported by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other leading state Republicans, is constitutionally suspect and possibly illegal, said Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law.

“States cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin, so there’s a constitutional equal-protection problem,” Gilman said Thursday. “And there is a specific federal law that says federal money cannot be managed in ways that discriminate by national origin — Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”

Michael Olivas, a professor who teaches immigration law and policy at the University of Houston Law Center, was blunter.

“It’s hard to convey the scorn or the sense of incredulity that is appropriate for this,” Olivas said. “It’s complete political grandstanding. States simply have no formal, final role in the determination of refugee policy or settlement. He is simply doing this to score absurd political points.”

[…]

It also could be argued, [Gilman] said, that Texas is in violation of the [U.S. Refugee Act]’s mandate for cooperation.

“The state is not engaging in collaboration, it’s engaging in a strategy of coercion to try to force the exclusion of Syrian refugees,” Gilman said. “It seems pretty apparent that what the state is trying to do is intimidate Syrian refugees and refugee resettlement agencies in an attempt to prevent Syrians from locating here.”

Like I said, though, you never know what a judge may do. Assuming this doesn’t get unconditionally tossed at that hearing next week, the next question is what Abbott and Paxton et al will do when other groups get back to their work of helping refugees relocate. Groups like Catholic Charities.

Up to 500 Syrians could be heading to San Antonio next year, but the state’s threat to shut off funding worries Catholic Charities, which is responsible for resettling refugees in the area.

“We want to work with the governor. We have shown we have not broken any laws,” said J. Antonio Fernandez, Catholic Charities CEO. He added, however: “We are not here to judge people coming from Syria, we’re here to help all refugees coming from every single country.”

[…]

Like other refugee agencies around the state, Catholic Charities received a letter from the governor advising about his orders.

“We responded back to the governor, telling him that we have to follow our federal contract,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez said Catholic Charities’ goal is to work with state officials, but the agency has to follow its mandate to resettle refugees fleeing persecution, religious discrimination and war.

“For our part, we just want to help people,” Fernandez said. He riterated, “We’re not here to judge, we just want to help.”

[…]

Erica B. Schommer, clinical assistant professor of law at St. Mary’s University, said organizations like Catholic Charities are in a difficult position.

“The governor is saying you can’t take them,” Schommer said, “when really, as a refugee resettlement organization, they have an agreement with the federal government to resettle people who are approved to come to the United States as refugees. Under the law, they can’t discriminate based on nationality or race or religion.”

Schommer said the problem is funding that’s filtered through the state. The money is needed to help provide services to refugees.

“If Catholic Charities does get families that are Syrians, without those families having access to food stamps and some of the other assistance that’s funneled through the states, there’s going to be a higher burden on (Catholic Charities) to come up with money to help those families make ends meet,” she said.

I ask again: Will Greg Abbott really sue the Catholic Church? Or does he actually have a sense of shame in there somewhere? Stay tuned.

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.

Refugee group defies Abbott

It’s on.

A nonprofit organization that resettles refugees in the United States says it will move forward with the placement of Syrian refugees in Texas, despite warnings from officials in the Lone Star State not to do so.

The New York-based International Rescue Committee said in a Monday letter to Texas health and human services chief Chris Traylor that its Dallas affiliate would continue to provide resettlement assistance to all refugees “who have been admitted lawfully to the United States.”

The nonprofit had received a letter earlier on Monday from Traylor urging the International Rescue Committee’s Dallas branch to discontinue resettling Syrian refugees or risk losing its state contract “and other legal action.” The International Rescue Committee – one of about 20 nonprofits that have a state contract to resettle refugees in Texas — had previously informed the state that it would resettle two families in the Dallas area in early December. Both families have relatives in North Texas, the nonprofit said.

See here for the background, here for the letter from HHSC to refugee groups, here for the IRC’s response letter to the HHSC, and here for their public statement. I’ve said before that I have a hard time believing that Greg Abbott would go to the mat against faith-based organizations like the IRC, but these are the time we live in. The next question is how much company the IRC will have in litigation against the state of Texas, if indeed it does come to that.

At least 242 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Texas since 2012. That number is relatively small for Texas — a hotbed for refugee resettlement — but the count of Syrian refugees was expected to increase significantly in the next year as the United States prepares to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees.

At least one other resettlement nonprofit, Catholic Charities of Dallas, had said it would continue to provide resettlement assistance to Syrian refugees. But as of Monday afternoon, that organization had not received a letter from the state similar to the one received by the International Rescue Committee, a Catholic Charities spokeswoman said.

[…]

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission was unable to provide a list of resettlement nonprofits that have agreed not to assist Syrian refugees.

At least two such nonprofits in Texas say they haven’t made a decision about whether to continue settling Syrian refugees.

A spokeswoman for Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston said in a statement that it had not received a letter from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, “so no final determination has been made regarding our next steps for resettling Syrian refugees.”

Likewise, Refugee Services of Texas had not received a letter from the state about Syrian refugees, said Aaron Rippenkroeger, the president and CEO. The organization plans to “seek guidance on the ramifications” of federal and state requirements,” he said in a statement.

The more organizations that stand with the IRC, the harder I think it will be for Abbott to follow through. There’s got to be a way to ease up and find a compromise, but I have no faith that Abbott wants to do that. TFN Insider has more.

Texas threatens to sue religious groups over refugees

Amazing.

Texas officials are escalating their opposition to Syrian refugees with a new order aimed specifically at resettlement groups that have indicated they will accept people fleeing the war-torn country: change your mind or risk getting sued by the state.

Texas health commissioner Chris Traylor issued the first lawsuit threat over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in a letter to the Dallas branch of the International Rescue Committee, which said earlier this month that it supports accepting Syrian refugees.

“We have been unable to achieve cooperation with your agency,” Traylor wrote in the letter, which was released to the Houston Chronicle, adding that, “Failure by your organization to cooperate with the State of Texas as required by federal law may result in the termination of your contract with the state and other legal action.”

Similar letters are expected to be sent to any refugee resettlement group that takes a similar position against Gov. Greg Abbott.

[…]

Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, a faith-based organization that has ties to refugee groups and has expressed concern about Abbott’s position, decried the letter in an interview with the Chronicle.

“This letter should raise serious concerns for refugees currently receiving assistance in Texas, and also for legislators – who should be asking what fiscal impact the Texas Health and Human Services Commission could be bringing down on the state through its increasingly contentious communications,” Moorhead said. “The health commission interacts collegially and effectively every day with multiple federal agencies, so it’s astonishing to see these kinds of communications coming from the agency.”

See here, here, and here for the background, and see the Chron story for a copy of the letter. I continue to be utterly gobsmacked by this. Again, these are faith-based organizations that Abbott is blithely threatening to sue. We all know how this would play out if the federal government were doing something like this, right? I mean, we’re all familiar with the apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding the contraception mandate. At what point does the Catholic Church in Texas quit pussyfooting around and condemn Abbott for this in no uncertain terms? That might loosen things up a bit. Beyond that, I still have no idea how this ends. Trail Blazers, the Press, and the Current have more.

Feds say No to Abbott on refugees

What now, Greg?

The federal government on Wednesday informed refugee resettlement agencies in Texas and across the country that states do not have the authority to refuse to accept Syrians.

The statement, made in a letter obtained by the Houston Chronicle, appears to mark the first time federal refugee program officials formally have rejected statements by governors, including Greg Abbott of Texas, that their states will not accept any Syrian refugees.

It also may signal that federal officials will place Syrians here and elsewhere regardless of governors’ wishes.

“States may not deny (Office of Refugee Resettlement)-funded benefits and services to refugees based on a refugee’s country of origin or religious affiliation. Accordingly, states may not categorically deny ORR-funded benefits and services to Syrian refugees,” wrote Robert Carey, director of the office, adding that states and agencies that do not comply would be violating the law and “could be subject to enforcement action, including suspension or termination.”

Carey’s two-page letter also emphasized that refugees seeking to come to the United States undergo heavy scrutiny over an average of two years of waiting, a point that President Barack Obama and other federal officials have been trying to make in recent days.

[…]

Carey’s letter came the same day that Obama made a special statement at the White House to reassure Americans that there is no specific and credible threat to the country right now. It also came the same day that the Texas Catholic Conference announced that its refugee resettlement agencies would continue to accept Syrian refugees and would work with agencies to ensure safety is upheld.

“The Texas Catholic Bishops encourage all parties – including governmental leaders, political officials, and advocates – to avoid impulsive judgments in setting public policies regarding the placement of Syrian refugees, the organization said in a statement. “The horrors of modern terrorism are frightening, but they demand from us a strong renewal of our faith and our commitment to Christian teachings and the common good.”

Another faith-based group, Texas Impact, has said it believes there is momentum toward finding a way to accept the refugees.

See here and here for some background. On the one hand, I can’t see Abbott caving in to the feds. His whole career is built on this kind of obstinate petulance. On the other hand, I doubt he wants to get into a pissing contest with religious groups, even if they’re mostly of the do-gooder variety and not suburban megachurches, who care about refugees about as much as he does. I still can’t quite see Abbott bringing down the hammer on faith-based organizations, but if that’s his line in the sand, it’s his bluff that’s getting called. I have no idea how this one ends.

Now who’s messing with religious freedom?

What is Greg Abbott’s beef with faith organizations?

A prominent Texas faith organization signaled Friday that refugee resettlement agencies in the state may not comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to turn away Syrian refugees, writing a letter “to express shock and dismay” with the directive.

The governor’s order “constitutes an unprecedented attempt on the part of a state agency to pressure private, nonprofit organizations to violate federal law and their federal contractual obligations,” wrote Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, which works closely with resettlement agencies affiliated with religious institutions.

The letter asked the state to convene a meeting with resettlement agencies and federal authorities to clarify whether Abbott has the authority to issue such a directive.

Moorhead told the Houston Chronicle that among resettlement groups, “there seems to be some energy developing around convening them as a coalition to work on this issue.”

Moorhead’s letter came hours after the state’s top health official wrote refugee resettlement agencies in the state to say Texas was invoking its legal right to “require that you provide immediate and ongoing consultation with the Health and Human Services Commission Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) regarding any plans that may exist to resettle Syrian refugees in Texas.”

“If you currently have plans to participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugee in Texas, please notify us immediately, but not later than 4:00 p.m. Friday, November 20, 2015,” executive health Commissioner Chris Traylor wrote, adding the agencies should discontinue those plans and “further, please notify us immediately if, in the future, you learn that a Syrian refugee is proposed for resettlement with your organization.”

See here for some background, and here for a copy of the letter. The Statesman adds on.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office appears headed toward a legal showdown with refugee resettlement agencies and their sponsoring faith organizations over Abbott’s efforts to keep any Syrian refugees from resettling in Texas in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks.

Following Abbott’s directive, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Chris Traylor on Thursday sent a toughly worded letter to 19 refugee resettlement agencies in Texas — including Caritas and the Refugee Services of Texas in Austin — asking that they scrap any plans to resettle Syrian refugees in Texas and that they notify his office by 4 p.m. Friday if they had any plans to resettle Syrians in the state.

Refugee resettlement is generally a federal matter done in cooperation with national and local nonprofit, often church-based, resettlement agencies. The states play a supportive role and pass federal money onto the local agencies.

However, in his effort to make good on his pledge to keep Syrian refugees from coming to Texas, Abbott, a former state attorney general, is relying on a section of the 1997 legislation authorizing the refugee resettlement program. It states that it is the intent of Congress that “local voluntary agency activities should be conducted in close cooperation and advance consultation with state and local governments.”

Traylor cites that provision in his letter, and warns, “We reserve the right to refuse to cooperate on any resettlement on any grounds and, until further notice, will refuse to cooperate with resettlement of any Syrian refugees in Texas.”

“It’s a very disturbing effort by the state to coerce nonprofit organizations into ceasing the important services that they normally provide to vulnerable refugees to allow them to integrate into our community,” said Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law.

“The agency is seeking to force nonprofits to join the governor’s misguided policies that discriminate on the basis of national origin,” Gilman said. “Most disappointing of all is that those harmed will be families who have fled unspeakable violence in Syria, who have undergone a lengthy and cumbersome process to ensure that they present no threat, and who desperately need protection and support to recover some stability in their lives here in the United States.”

That’s religious nonprofits that Abbott is trying to coerce. At a time when for-profit corporations have been granted the right to impose the religious beliefs of their owners on their employees and when plaintiffs in a lawsuit who happen to be pastors getting subpoenaed is taken as an assault on freedom on religion. Again, this is Greg Abbott exerting government power to influence what religious organizations can do. I’m at a loss for words here. Thankfully, Lisa Falkenberg was able to find a few.

On issues like birth control, abortion and gay marriage, conservative politicians routinely charge into the fray like moral warriors, vowing to protect the sacred constitutional right to religious liberty.

Hobby Lobby. Kim Davis. They got your back.

But when it comes to a basic tenet of Christianity – caring for the stranger – the warriors have turned their swords against Scripture.

What would Jesus do, Greg? Feel free to ask a bishop if you need help with that.

On Texas and refugees

Greg Abbott does not speak for Texas.

Tens of thousands of immigrants have come to Texas to escape persecution or political violence, and Texans have often offered their hearts, lands and money to the dispossessed. What has changed that makes it so easy for Governor Greg Abbott to declare Texas closed to Syrian refugees fleeing the murderous violence of ISIS and other rebel factions in their homeland? (Of course, Abbott cannot keep Syrian refugees out of Texas, but he can make certain the state does not cooperate in their re-location.) I spent a few minutes searching old newspaper archives to see how Texas handled refugees in the past.

When Russia began a purge of Jews in 1888, a Texan named J.B. Brown offered to give 100 acres of land to each Jewish family who wanted to relocate to Motley County on the plains of West Texas. Similarly, in 1939, a search was made around Texas for land that might be purchased for the relocation of European Jews. The city of Plainview notified Governor James Allred that 46,000 acres could be made immediately available if needed. There’s no evidence that any families took these offers, but the offers were at least made.

In 1956, when Hungarians revolted against oppressive Soviet control, people in Dallas welcomed refugees. Eighty-seven were greeted at Love Field by a local delegation, with the Southern Methodist University band playing the Hungarian national anthem, and the Lone Star flag of Texas joined by the national flags of the United States and Hungary. As The Dallas Morning News reported: “Refugees from blood-drained Hungary representing such diverse occupations as laborers, musicians, teachers, knitters and typists, Saturday will land in hospitable Dallas—their peaceful haven after bloody riots.” However, one group of six refugees had refused to come to Dallas because they believed the city was still the Wild West that they had seen in Hollywood movies. It was our violence they feared, not us fearing theirs.

(Indeed, Dallas continues to exhibit its welcoming spirit. The Morning News reported yesterday that Mayor Mike Rawlings said “he didn’t see what authority any mayor or governor had to keep legal U.S. residents out of a city or state. He said no one has contacted him about Syrian refugees but, if they did, it would be ‘the spirit of Dallas’ to help in a crisis.”)

When Cuban refugees started arriving in 1961, Texas Methodists, Baptists and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth organized to find them new homes and new jobs. “No church is too small to help meet the refugee problem,” the Texas Methodist wrote in an editorial. Will the churches of Texas be as welcoming to the Syrians now?

Similarly, Texas Quakers and Catholics in 1982 organized an underground railroad to help those fleeing violence in El Salvador find refuge in Texas by going around federal immigration officials. At one point, it was estimated that 25,000 Salvadorans were living illegally in Houston alone. Both sides in El Salvador’s civil war engaged in terroristic acts and death squads. Nothing could guarantee that some terrorists had not entered the country, nothing except the belief that most, if not all, of these people simply wanted to live their lives in peace, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In the 1970s, Texas welcomed 27,000 refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia.

He does not speak for Christians:

A push by Republican presidential candidates to ban Syrian refugees “does not reflect what we’ve been hearing from our constituencies, which are evangelical churches across the country,” said Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy at World Relief, an evangelical organization that helps resettle refugees. “Most of the people have been saying we want to continue to work with refugees, that what happened in Paris … doesn’t reflect who refugees are.”

[…]

The United States so far has admitted roughly 2,100 Syrians since the conflict in the country began in March 2011. To be allowed in, refugees have to undergo the most stringent security checks of any traveler heading to the United States, according to the State Department. Officials from the Obama administration on Tuesday began reaching out to the media and lawmakers in a bid to explain the screening process, which takes an average of 18-24 months.

Meanwhile, faith-based groups have also stepped up their advocacy efforts for refugees. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement expressing distress over calls by elected officials to halt the resettlement program.

“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris,” said the statement by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the conference’s committee on migration. “Instead of using this tragedy to scapegoat all refugees, I call upon our public officials to work together to end the Syrian conflict peacefully so the close to 4 million Syrian refugees can return to their country and rebuild their homes. Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive.”

Since the Paris attacks, World Relief has used a website to urge people to contact their governors to express their support for resettling Syrians. The Anti-Defamation League also has spoken out in favor of helping the Syrian refugees, noting that U.S. wariness to accept Jewish refugees during World War II is an example that must not be repeated.

I don’t know who Greg Abbott thinks he’s speaking for, but he doesn’t speak for them, he doesn’t speak for Fred, and he doesn’t speak for me.