Pro-Syrian Refugee Protest Draws Hundreds to Texas Capital

Hundreds of pro-Syrian refugee activists took to the streets of Austin, Texas, this weekend to protest Governor Greg Abbott’s order to refuse the resettlement of Syrian refugees into Texas.

One week ago, the Texas governor ordered state agencies not to participate in any federal resettlement programs. He also urged the White House to stop its program of bringing un-vetted Syrian refugees into America. Abbott partnered with at least thirty other governors in refusing the refugees from Syria.

The Syrian People Solidarity Group organized the protest, which Corpus Christi resident and Syrian immigrant Citrine Ghraowi, as previously reported by Breitbart Texas, led. The group sought “to demand that Governor Abbott not use Islamophobic rhetoric when talking about state policy and that refugees from all countries should be welcome here!,” according to the statement released by the protesters.

The group gathered at Woolridge Park and marched the several blocks past the Texas Capitol, arriving at the Governor’s Mansion, according to KEYETV-CBS in Austin. The group chanted “Let them in, Abbott let them in” and “Governor Abbott shame on you.”

Members of The Syrian People Solidarity Group protest in Austin.  (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Members of The Syrian People Solidarity Group protest in Austin. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

“It’s so sad to be a young person and to see the future of my country being in the hands of ignorant fear mongers,” protester Elaina Jimenez told KEYE reporter Adam Hammons. “For us to punish all of them is ridiculous.”

“I believe now is the time not for cowardice but for compassion,” protester Lois Smith told KEYE. “Cooler heads are not prevailing in the state right now.”

Not all agree with the group. In fact, a Washington Post/ABC poll reported by Breitbart News’ John Nolte reveals that 54 percent of Americans do not want the Syrian refugees. In addition, 52 percent say they are not confident in the federal government’s ability to properly screen the refugees that ISIS has repeatedly promised to “seed with terrorists.” An almost unheard of super-majority of Americans (73 percent) have expressed being in support of a military response to ISIS. And, 81 percent believe that a terror attack is “likely” against the United States.

Pro-Syrian Refugee protesters gather in park prior to marching to Governor's Mansion. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Pro-Syrian Refugee protesters gather in park prior to marching to Governor’s Mansion. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Whether Texas and the federal government participate in the Syrian refugee resettlement, Syrians can still freely cross the wide-open, unsecured border between the United States and Mexico. In the past week alone, Breitbart Texas has reported two separate incidents in which thirteen Syrians have presented themselves at the international bridge connecting Texas to Mexico in Laredo. In one case, Breitbart Texas’ Brandon Darby and Ildefonso Ortiz broke the news that two family units, eight Syrians, had turned themselves in to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. Just a few days later, five more Syrians presented themselves at the bridge. This group consisted of one family and two additional single men. All thirteen were moved to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers in South Texas.

During this same period, six men from Pakistan and Afghanistan were captured by Border Patrol agents miles inside the United States in southern Arizona. Those men were quickly scooped up by the FBI.

All of these incidents would have gone unreported by CBP officials if news outlets had not pressured them to confirm the Breitbart Texas articles. The CBP routinely keeps such stories secret.

Darby said late last week on Breitbart News Daily, SiriusXM Patriot 125, that the presence of these Syrians arriving at the Laredo port of entry, combined with the Pakistanis and Afghans who were arrested in southern Arizona, shows there is a pipeline whereby people can travel from the Middle East to Mexico. They are then able to move quickly up to the American border and then cross, either at a port of entry like these two groups of Syrians have done, or by crossing the wide-open unsecured border like happened in Arizona.

While the numbers of Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the United States over the past few years is readily available, the numbers who have crossed into the United States across the international borders of this country illegally is not. Texas is routinely the target of what CBP refers to as OTMs (Other than Mexican) and SIAs (Special Interest Aliens). SIAs are aliens who come from countries known to have terrorism.

Over the past few years, CBP has acknowledged the arrest of SIAs from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, and Iran, according to the Washington Post.  The smuggling of the SIAs in particular had become a huge cash cow for the cartels operating in Mexico as they often charge up to $50,000 to smuggle, Military.com reported.

“Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees – any one of whom could be connected to terrorism – being resettled in Texas,” Governor Abbott said one week ago in a letter to President Obama. “Effective today [Nov. 16], I am directing the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Texas. And I urge you, as President, to halt your plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States.”

These comments sparked the protest by Syrians living in Texas and other activists supporting their cause. “With all the suffering they have been through, this is the least that we can do for them to help,” benefit organizer and executive director of Watan USA Mouna Hashem told KEYE.

Hashem told KEYE that blocking refugees completely goes against the values she was raised on in the United States. She continued by saying most of these people don’t want to leave the area and would rather be home in Syria. However, war has pushed them out.

While most Americans might understand that argument, a majority of those polled in the Washington Post/ABC poll cited above disagree. Without the government’s ability to properly screen these refugees, it appears most Americans would rather find some other way to help them than resettlement into the United States.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.


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