Texas Threatens Legal Action Against International Rescue Committee

The State of Texas has threatened legal action against a Dallas non-profit that helps to resettle Syrian refugees in North Texas, the day after an NBC DFW story featuring a family they helped to find a home here.

"I urge you to cooperate with the State of Texas, as required by law, as we work together to implement Governor Abbott's efforts to keep our doors open to refugees while at the same time keeping Texans secure," reads a letter, in part, written by Chris Traylor, the Executive Commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

The letter was addressed to the International Rescue Committee in Dallas, which has helped to resettle eight Syrians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, in addition to refugees from several other war-torn countries from across the globe.

Last month, Governor Greg Abbott said the state will not accept any Syrian refugees fleeing the Middle East and Africa.

"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," Abbott said in a letter to President Barack Obama.

"As of today, the Health and Human Services Commission will not be involved in any Syrian refugee relocation," Abbott said at the time. "We will be working to ensure Syrians won't be able to enter the state of Texas and be given refuge even through 501-c based organizations."

The IRC is one of those agencies.

It has worked on behalf of refugees like Faez al Sharaa, 28, his 26-year-old wife Shaza and their two daughters - 4-month-old Sara and 14-month-old Sham - who share a one-bedroom Richardson apartment that the family has rented since February when they were first placed in the United States.

Daughter Sara is an American citizen, born in Dallas this summer.

The rest of the al Sharaa family is in the process of attaining US citizenship.

"Many of your fellow organizations expressed a willingness to work with the state to identify alternative outcomes for refugees from Syria who might otherwise relocate to Texas," Commissioner Traylor wrote to the IRC. "However, we have been unable to achieve cooperation with your agency."

"Failure by your organization to cooperate with the State of Texas as required by federal law may result in the termination of your contract with the state and other legal action," Traylor concluded.

Daley Ryan, the Deputy Director of the Dallas office of the IRC, told NBC DFW his organization will continue its work.

"As part of our mission and mandate from the US Federal government, we will continue to resettle refugees in Texas," Ryan told NBC DFW via email. "This is in accordance with our cooperative agreement with the State Department. We hope to work with Governor Abbott and other officials in Texas to do our part to persuade them of the integrity of the program and the need to continue to offer sanctuary to the world's most vulnerable refugees- which includes the most vulnerable Syrian refugees."

In its official reply to Commissioner Traylor, the IRC wrote Monday night that, "the IRC understands Governor Abbott's commitment to the safety of the people of Texas. There is no doubt that what happened on the streets of Paris on November 13 was horrific and the actions of a terrorist organization."

"However it is important not to conflate terrorists with the Syrian refugees who are seeking sanctuary in the United States. These are people who are fleeing violence and persecution inflicted by extremist groups and armed actors - some of whom are the same groups who took those innocent lives in Paris, Beirut, and on a Russian airliner, all in the past month," the IRC noted.

The IRC's response also highlighted the plight of the al Sharaa family.

"Syrians like Faez and his wife, Shaza, both of whom have been given safe haven in Texas. The family had to flee Syria when Faez was held at gunpoint by a group of armed militants in his home town of Daraa. Pure luck was the reason he managed to escape with his life," the IRC wrote.

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