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Texas Nonprofit Will Settle Two Syrian Refugee Families Despite Governor’s Order Not To

FILE — In this Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 file photo, a Syrian refugee child sleeps in his father’s arms while waiting at a resting point to board a bus, after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. Bold ideas for helping Syrian refugees and their overburdened Middle Eastern host countries are gaining traction among international donors who were shocked into action by this year’s migration of hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians to Europe. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MUHAMMED MUHEISEN
FILE — In this Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 file photo, a Syrian refugee child sleeps in his father’s arms while waiting at a resting point to board a bus, after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. Bold ideas for helping Syrian refugees and their overburdened Middle Eastern host countries are gaining traction among international donors who were shocked into action by this year’s migration of hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians to Europe. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MUHAMMED MUHEISEN

A Texas nonprofit is defying an order from the state’s governor to stop assisting Syrian refugees by announcing plans to resettle two families in Dallas who are fleeing the Syrian civil war.

On Tuesday, the New York City-based International Rescue Committee (IRC) sent a letter to the Texas Health and Human Services Commissions declaring its intention to help two groups of Syrian refugees find new homes in the Lone Star state within the next 10 days, according to the Dallas Morning News. The move comes just two weeks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joined with 31 other governors in asking the federal government to keep Syrian refugees out of his state. Abbott went a step further than many of his contemporaries, however, going so far as to order local nonprofits that assist refugees — including many faith-based groups — to not “participate in the resettlement” of people trying to escape the horrific violence being waged in Syria.

We are also hoping to meet with Governor Abbott to do our piece to persuade him and other officials of State of the integrity of the refugee security process.

The legality of the governor’s conscription has been questioned by IRC and other organizations such as Refugee Services of Texas, which argued last week that Abbott is possibly asking the groups to violate the Civil Rights Act — a law which prohibits federal programs from discriminating on the basis of race, color, and national origin.

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In addition, various faith groups and immigration advocates such as IRC have also challenged the morality of lawmakers who insist on rejecting Syrian refugees. They refute the popularized notion that people scrambling to escape violence in the Middle East could be agents for groups such as ISIS, and point out that the rigorous refugee screening process is actually one of the most difficult ways to enter the United States legally.

“We are also hoping to meet with Governor Abbott to do our piece to persuade him and other officials of State of the integrity of the refugee security process,” Lucy Carrigan, a senior officer in communications for the IRC, told the Dallas Morning News. The governor’s office did not immediately return ThinkProgress’ request for comment.

At least one other group, Catholic Charities of Dallas, echoed IRC by pledging to continue serving refugees. They join groups in New Jersey, which recently settled a Syrian family in the state despite opposition from Gov. Chris Christie.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rippenkroeger, CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, told ThinkProgress that his workers plan to “continue to serve our clients while we seek guidance on the ramifications of the [Texas government’s] request to discontinue resettlement services for Syrian refugees in the future.”

According to the the Texas Tribune, Texas is home to at least 242 Syrian refugees, around 13 percent of the 1,854 Syrian Refugees admitted to the United States since 2012. That number will likely increase in 2016, when the federal government plans to accept around 10,000 more.

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And while Abbott may not embrace the two new Syrian families making their way to Dallas, local government authorities likely will: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has stated he will welcome Syrian refugees, explaining that is he is more afraid of “large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up” than people running from war.

Update:

Soon after this post was published, the Associated Press reported that the state of Texas is now suing the U.S. government to prevent the IRC-assisted Syrian refugees from settling in their state. The suit alleges that the IRC and the federal government violated federal law by moving forward with the resettlement, and argues that “the federal government and resettlement group have not fulfilled their contractual obligations to consult with and provide information to state officials,” according to the Texas Tribune.