Despite refugee backlash, Syrian family finds safe haven in Texas

A refugee welfare group said Tuesday that it has settled a Syrian refugee family in Texas defying efforts by the state to stop their arrival.

LM Otero/AP
Syrian refugee Mohammad word al Jaddou, front, stands in front of his siblings twins Maria, right, and Hasan at their apartment in Dallas on Nov. 29.

A Syrian refugee family arrived in their new home in Dallas on Monday amid controversy over the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the state.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) resettled the family of six on Monday, despite objections by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Mr. Abbott is among more than two dozen governors who, since the November Paris terror attacks, have vowed to keep new Syrian refugees outside their state borders until their public-safety concerns are addressed.

Last week, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees refugee resettlement for the state, had moved to stop resettlement of refugees fleeing Syria citing “reasonable concerns about the safety and security of the citizenry of the state.” But on Friday, Texas revered course, and stopped trying to block the Syrian refugees scheduled to arrive this week from coming, but vowed to continue their legal fight to block others from doing the same.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wanted a federal judge to immediately halt the resettlements, but dropped that request after the Obama administration and ACLU attacked the state's argument in court papers as frivolous. Federal courts – including the US Supreme Court – have long ruled that immigration is a federal responsibility.

According to the United States immigration policy, which allows the resettling of refugees who face persecution, states don't have the authority to block refugees. In accordance with the Refugee Act of 1980, refugee resettlement within the US is managed by the federal government.

Texas sought to challenge the relocation based on the language of this act, which requires the federal government to “consult regularly with State and local governments and private nonprofit voluntary agencies” about the support and distribution of refugees “before their placement in those States and localities.”

The Syrian family settled into an apartment with basic furniture and a stocked refrigerator, according to Lucy Carrigan, a spokeswoman for the IRC.

"They seem very happy," Ms. Carrigan said. "And it was almost like breathing a sigh of relief that they have arrived. This has been a long journey for them, and it's been a long journey for a lot of Syrian refugees."

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Texas has housed more refugees than any other state in the last five years including about 250 Syrian refugees since Syria's civil war began in 2011.

Meanwhile, on Monday night, another Syrian couple and their two small children arrived safely in Indiana – another state that has been resistant to accepting refugees, Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin said in a statement.

The Associated Press reports that the Syrian family was resettled in Indianapolis where members of the refugees' extended family, are already living.

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