Judge dismisses Texas lawsuit over Syrian refugees

People protest on November 22, 2015 in Austin, Texas in favor of allowing Syrian refugees

Chicago (AFP) – Texas lost its bid to keep Syrian refugees out when a federal judge on Thursday dismissed the state’s lawsuit over resettlements from the wartorn Middle Eastern country.

US District Court Judge David Godbey said the state failed to make “a plausible claim for relief” in its lawsuit against the federal government and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a charity that aids refugees.

“I am disappointed with the court’s determination that Texas cannot hold the federal government accountable,” state Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a written statement. 

Texas officials argue that they should be consulted by the federal government before refugees are relocated there, and that the state should be provided with specific information about individual refugees. 

But the judge said that existing US law does not support the state’s petition, a ruling that was cheered by the plaintiffs.

“The court is unequivocal in validating the lawfulness of the refugee resettlement program,” said Jennifer Sime, senior vice president of the IRC’s US Programs. 

The non-profit group said Syrians are the most vetted of the refugees it settles in Texas. 

A number of intelligence agencies are involved in the background check, and only those with the most well-founded cases ultimately qualify for resettlement. 

After last November’s Paris attacks, Texas was one of numerous US states saying they did not want Syrian refugees resettled within their borders. 

Texas officials said after the ruling that they are considering their next moves.  

“Just today, the CIA director warned Congress that ISIS may use refugee programs to smuggle in terrorists, so it is critical that our state remains vigilant in ensuring the safety of Texans,” Bryan Black, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, told AFP in an emailed statement. 

He was referring to Capitol Hill testimony in which CIA Director John Brennan warned that ISIS “is probably exploring a variety of means for infiltrating operatives into the West, including refugee flows, smuggling routes, and legitimate methods of travel.”

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