The Obama Administration got back in the face of Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the other governors who said they would not accept Syrian refugees in their states. The governors were told they must take the Syrian refugees whether they want to or not. The move by the Office of Refugee Resettlement could lead to yet another lawsuit filed by states against the federal government.
The director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services, Robert Carey, wrote that the states cannot deny benefits and services that are funded by its department “to refugees based on a refugee’s country of origin or religious affiliation,” the Dallas Morning News reported.
Earlier this month, Breitbart Texas reported Governor Abbott joined with other governors to block state agencies from cooperating with the federal refugee program. “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 a letter to President Obama dated November 16. “Effective today, 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.”
The law states that the federal government must “consult” with the states on refugee resettlement. It is very vague about whether the states can actually reject refugees. U.S. Representative Ted Poe has introduced a bill to help clarify that point. Poe introduced H.R. 4032, the States’ Right of Refugee Refusal Act of 2015, to make clear that state governors can refuse to accept refugees.
The bill states:
Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the Director or the Federal agency administering subsection (b)(1) may not resettle any refugee or coordinate placement of any refugee in a State when that State government has communicated to the Director that the State government does not accede to the resettlement or placement of refugees in that State.”
“Let’s resolve this now with legislation, instead of having to wait for years to battle it out in court,” Poe explained in an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas last week. “This is an issue the states’ governors should be able to decide.”
The bill has been introduced and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee of which Poe is a member. The bill is now waiting for approval from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be placed on the agenda for the House.
The comments from Director Carey make clear the need for this bill when he wrote “states may not categorically deny ORR-funded benefits and services to Syrian refugees.”
Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson attempted to dissuade fears about the Syrian refugees by reassuring Governor Abbott and the other governors that they have a strong screening process for the estimated 100,000 Syrians they want to resettle into the United States, Breitbart Texas reported late last week.
“Our multi-agency system for vetting refugees is strong, and it has been significantly enhanced over the past few years,” the White House officials wrote.
However, testimony by Secretary Johnson, FBI director James B. Comey and the National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J. Rasmussen painted a different picture when questioned by Representative Lamar Smith in a September hearing conducted by the House Homeland Security Committee.
Smith told Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick that both FBI Director Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Johnson admitted they do not currently have the ability to properly screen and conduct sufficient background checks on these refugees.
Governor Abbott has not yet responded to the message from Director Carey. The state agency Abbott ordered not to participate in the federal government’s Syrian refugee resettlement programs is standing firm. “The Health and Human Services Commission will continue to follow the directive of Gov. Abbott, which calls for the state of Texas to not participate in the resettlement of Syrian refugees,” agency spokesman Bryan Black told the Dallas Morning News in a statement.
The director of Texas Refugee Services seemed a little less reticent when he wrote, “We are currently seeking further guidance on the ramifications of the ORR letter and the HHSC requirements in light of Gov. Abbott’s request to discontinue resettlement services for Syrian refugees in the future,” the Dallas news outlet reported.
Ultimately, it is the governor of Texas that is responsible for the safety and security of Texans. To that end, Abbott directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to also “ensure that any refugees already in this state do not pose a risk to public safety,” in a letter obtained by Breitbart Texas dated November 17. In that letter, Abbott also appointed Cecile Young as the Refugee Coordinator for Texas.
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.