Headline News
Go Back

Abbott nixes Syrian refugees in Texas

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

(Editor's note: In response to Gov. Greg Abbott's efforts to block Syrian refugees from being resettled in Texas, the Obama administration reminded state officials that states have no legal authority to refuse to accept Syrian refugees and may not deny benefits and services to refugees based on a refugee's country of origin or religious affiliation. Furthermore, according to a letter signed by Robert Carey, director of the federal resettlement office, states that do not comply with the requirement risk enforcement action to include suspension or termination of the federally funded program. Let the lawsuits begin ...

In a series of coordinated attacks, eight - or possibly nine - Islamic terrorists killed 130 civilians and wounded over 350 in Paris, France on Friday, Nov. 13. The attacks were carried out at six locations, including a sporting event, concert hall and bars and restaurants. Seven terrorists were killed by law enforcement officials or after detonation of explosive vests. A manhunt continues for the remaining terrorists.
One terrorist has been identified as Ahmad al-Mohammad, 25, a native of Syria. His identification was predicated on a passport found in close proximity to some of his scattered body parts. However, according to a French official, the passport was a fake.
No borders = problems
Apparently al-Mohammad reached the French capital by way of the Greek Island of Leros on Oct. 3, crossing from Macedonia into Serbia on Oct. 7 as part of a huge wave of immigrants who recently flooded into Europe seeking asylum from the current civil war in Syria.
As part of Europe's Schengen Agreement, France had eliminated most border checkpoints, which enabled the ersatz Syrian refugee - cum jihadist terrorist - to travel from Serbia to Paris without being stopped.
Fully implemented in 1995, the Schengen Agreement gradually abolished border checks at the common borders of European Union member countries. As a result, vehicles now cross borders without stopping; residents of border areas cross borders away from fixed checkpoints; and visas have essentially been abolished.
Protecting Texans
Considering the odds were stacked against Americans in general and Texans in particular, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to President Barack Obama, dated Nov. 16, informing him that Texas would not accept any refugees from Syria. To date, 30 other governors have taken the same position.
Referencing the Syrian "refugee" implicated in the Paris terror attack, Abbott wrote, "I and millions of Americans implore you to halt your plans to accept more Syrian refugees in the United States. American humanitarian compassion could be exploited to expose Americans to similar deadly danger."
A September Quinnipiac poll found that 58 percent of respondents thought that admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees "would pose a threat to the national security of the United States."
However, the Obama Administration refuses to alter plans to bring at least that many Syrians to the US this year alone.
According to Abbott, while testifying to Congress, FBI Director James B. Comey said that the federal government lacks sufficient background information to conduct thorough security checks on Syrian nationals. As Comey explained bluntly, "We can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them."
ISIS in Lone Star State
In his letter to the president, Abbott also cited evidence about existential threats ISIS operatives pose to Texas.
Last May, ISIS claimed credit when two terrorist gunmen launched an attack in Garland. Less than two weeks later, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested an Iraqi-born man in North Texas. The man was charged with lying to federal agents about traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS.
Additionally, in 2014, when Abbott served as attorney general, members of a Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested two Austin residents for providing material to terrorists - including ISIS.
"Given the tragic attack in Paris and the threats we have already seen in Texas, coupled with the FBI director's acknowledgment that we do not have the information necessary to effectively vet Syrian nationals, 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.
On Tuesday, Nov. 17, Abbott notified Chris Traylor, executive commissioner for Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and Col. Steven C. McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, about his decision, asking for the cooperation of both agencies. He also directed the men to inform all local volunteer agencies and organizations participating in the United States Refugee Resettlement Program about his decision.
"Additionally, I direct the Texas Department of Public Safety to work with federal and local officials to ensure any refugees already in this state do not pose a risk to public safety," Abbott wrote.
Defending his decision to Fox News' Sean Hannity later that day, Abbott explained that governors have a legal authority to control refugee resettlement programs within their respective states.
"This is a very real situation that Texas is having to deal with," Abbott said. "The narrative out there is absolutely false when they say governors have no authority to do anything about this because we do. Section 8 of the US Code, Section 1522, specifically authorizes the states to control these refugee programs."
Smith legislation
Also on Nov. 17, Congressman Lamar Smith cosponsored legislation that, if enacted into law, would give governors the ability to protect their states by refusing to accept Syrian refugees. The bill, HR4032, is titled "The States' Right of Refugee Refusal Act
"We are not going to simply sit back and allow this administration to endanger American lives. Congress should defund and halt the relocation of Syrian refugees to the US," Smith said. "I fully support the actions of governors like Texas Governor Abbott to protect the residents and the interests of their states."
By amending the Immigration and Nationality Act, the bill would ensure that states have the right to refuse to participate in the Refugee Resettlement program if their governor chooses to opt out. Currently, the Refugee Resettlement Act only permits consultation with the states, but does not clearly give the states the right to refuse.
"The terrorist group ISIS has said it will seek to infiltrate the United States using the refugee program," Smith said.
'Unacceptable peril'
Abbott recently appointed Cecile Young as refugee coordinator for the State of Texas. Her authority includes ensuring coordination of public and private resources regarding refugee resettlement in the state.
Abbott concluded his letter to the president by stating, "I urge you to halt your plans to allow Syrian refugees to be resettled anywhere in the United States. Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity.
"As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril."
(Sources: wikipedia.com, CNN, NBC and Texas Eagle Forum.)