Gov. Greg Abbott used to joke when he was attorney general that he’d get up in the morning, go to work, sue the Obama Administration and then go home. He’d wake up and do the same thing the next day.
The latest Texas suit by current attorney general Ken Paxton against the Obama Administration is not what you might describe as an everyday lawsuit. Indeed, newspapers across the country have taken note of Texas’ decision to sue the Federal government over its plans to resettle Syrian refugees.
For about the last week, the state has been working against the arrival of two Syrian families. One is expected as early as this Friday. The state has been calling for one of the non-profit agencies that’s actually assisting in the resettlement process to halt their arrival.
When they were unsuccessful in doing that, the state had a back-and-forth between the non-profit and with the federal government. Eventually, Wednesday afternoon, Texas filed a lawsuit in a Dallas-based federal court against the federal government and the non-profit International Rescue Committee.
Alexa Ura, reporter for the Texas Tribune, has been writing about the lawsuit. She says the state is asking for a temporary restraining order on this one Syrian family.
“Since Governor Abbott’s order back in mid-November that he didn’t want any Syrian refugees to be resettled here, there haven’t been any [Syrians refugees in Texas]. This family, arriving on Friday, would have been the first, still could be,” she says. “What they’re saying is that the feds and this non-profit haven’t done their duties in keeping the state in the loop as to their actions and the refugees that they are trying to resettle here.”
The state is alleging that the organization has violated the Refugee Act of 1980 by not sharing information with the state. The Dallas judge has yet to decide to take up the case.
Ura says there has been little commentary on the case.
“They’ve been a little wary commenting specifically on some of the legal actions that could come from this, but they have reiterated that the admissions process for these individuals is fairly rigorous,” she says. “It’s a process that could take up to two years. They’ve warned against trying to conflate these individuals with terrorists, particularly after the Paris attacks. That prompted these calls from governor saying ‘we don’t want any Syrian refugees,’ and their focus has been more so on continuing to tell the story of refugees and insisting that they are all very rigorously screened before they come to the U.S.”
Ura says it’s “inevitable” that Texas could be a test case for other states speaking out against resettling Syrian refugees. “Two dozen other governors have also said ‘we don’t want Syrian refugees,’ and I believe this might be if not the first, one of the first lawsuits against the federal government and a non-profit agency,” she says. “So definitely, all eyes on Texas again, as the battle goes to the courts.”