Texas Suing Gov't to Block Syrian Refugees From Coming Into Dallas

Family of six Syrian refugees expected to arrive in North Texas this week

Six Syrian refugees expected to arrive in Dallas this week will stop first in New York City where they will be greeted by the CEO of the International Rescue Committee and family members already settled in North Texas, a source tells NBC 5 Thursday.

The refugees are expected to be placed in North Texas despite the objection of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who said they pose a security threat to Texans. The state filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order in an effort to block the family, and other refugees, from resettling in DFW.

Texas, citing security concerns, is seeking to delay their arrival for at least a week, until a federal judge can hear the state's challenge. However, the Obama administration has said states don't have the authority to block refugees.

Officials have not said when the most recent group of refugees will travel from New York to Dallas.

Meanwhile, the IRC, which was also named in the lawsuit, has repeatedly noted that Syrian refugees are the most security-vetted group of people who come into the U.S. The Obama administration said that vetting is thorough and can take up to two years.

"On or about Thursday, December 3 or Friday, December 4, a group of Syrian refugees are scheduled to arrive in Texas. Plans for the settlement of additional refugees may be underway. As mentioned herein, Plaintiff possesses reasonable concerns about the safety and security of the citizenry of the State of Texas regarding these refugees that may seek resettlement within the State of Texas. The safety and security of the citizenry is the rightful concern of the sovereign and one of the many reasons why Plaintiff maintains an ongoing right to full cooperation, communication, collaboration, and candor with Defendants regarding its efforts in resettling foreign nationals amongst the Texas citizenry," the complaint said.

In response to the lawsuit, the IRC released the following statement:

The International Rescue Committee has worked in coordination with Texas officials for forty years - to the benefit of Texas communities and the refugees we serve. Refugees are victims of terror, not terrorists, and the families we help have always been welcomed by the people of Texas. The IRC acts within the spirit and letter of the law, and we are hopeful that this matter is resolved soon.

Their relatives, the al Sharaa family, arrived in North Texas nearly 10 months ago and told their story last week exclusively to NBC 5.

"The question is what will the governor of Texas do? Is he going to stop them at the airport?" said Anne Marie Weiss-Armush, with DFW International Community Alliance, a North Texas organization that helps refugee families start new lives.

Abbott is among more than two dozen governors, mostly Republicans, who have vowed to keep new Syrian refugees from resettling in their states. In Indiana, GOP Gov. Mike Pence said he met Wednesday with Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin Archbishop Joseph Tobin to ask him not to bring a Syrian refugee family into the state who is expected to arrive later this month after a two-year vetting process. Tobin said he would "give serious consideration to what" Pence said.

More than 170 Syrians have settled in the U.S. since the Paris attacks, including in states whose governors resisted, according to the U.S. State Department figures.

Abbott earlier Wednesday said the State Department offered "absolutey no guarantees" about safety ahead of the arrival.

"It is irresponsible for the refugee resettlement operations to put aside any type of security interest and continue to press on about this," Abbott said while speaking to reporters over conference call in Cuba.

Texas had threatened the New York-based IRC with legal action last week. The group responded Monday that it would continue to help all refugees in accordance with its obligations under federal guidelines. Texas responded Tuesday with demands for a moratorium on resettlements until the state received "all information" on Syrians scheduled to arrive in Texas during the next 90 days. Texas also sent a letter to the State Department seeking information on the expected refugees to "satisfy our concerns with the effectiveness of the screening procedures."

The IRC responded it was "heartened" that Texas was consulting with the State Department and hoped "that through this process the State of Texas will be persuaded that the refugee security vetting process is a secure one" and that Syrian refugees are the most vetted.

The Justice Department said it would review the complaint after formally receiving it. The White House declined to comment. The IRC did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

IRC spokeswoman Lucy Carrigan has said that two Syrian families are expected to arrive in Texas in the next 10 days, including the six who are noted in the lawsuit.

Texas currently takes in more refugees than any other state, including about 240 Syrian refugees since 2011.

"I believe, by the way it's being handled, that this is a test and eyes of people all over the country will be on Dallas," Weiss-Armush said.

Dallas Immigration attorney Richard Gump said federal law is on the refugees’ side.

“If the United States allows a refugee into the United States, then a particular state can’t say, ‘no, you can’t come to our state.’”

Gump said concern about terrorism is understandable after Syrian refugees were connected to the Paris attack but he said refugees receive thorough background checks before they are allowed in the U.S.

“My best guess is that the Supreme Court, if it gets there, will throw this out,” Gumps said.

The Refugee Act of 1980 dictates that refugee resettlement within the United States is managed by the federal government. State refugee coordinators are consulted by the federal government and the nine refugee resettlement agencies that have contracts with the government, but that consultation is largely to ensure refugees are settled in cities with adequate jobs, housing and social services.

Federal courts -- including the U.S. Supreme Court -- have upheld that immigration and admission of noncitizens to the United States is a federal responsibility and one managed wholly by the federal government.

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Complaint (Text)

NBC 5's Kevin Cokely, Frank Heinz and Ken Kalthoff contributed to this report.

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