Texas Threatens to Sue Refugee Resettlement Group
Critics say the warning should raise 'serious concerns'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2015 7:47 AM CST
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott delivers opening remarks during a media conference at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Regional Academic Health Center on Sept. 14, 2015, in Harlingen, Texas.   (Jason Hoekema/Valley Morning Star via AP)

(Newser) – Last week, the Obama administration reminded states they don't have the legal authority to turn away Syrian refugees. But that's not stopping Texas officials from doubling down on efforts to block refugees, and their latest move includes a threatened lawsuit against the Dallas branch of a resettlement group, the Houston Chronicle reports. "We have been unable to achieve cooperation with your agency," the state's health commissioner wrote to the International Rescue Group. "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." The warning, which Gov. Greg Abbott's office said Sunday he supports, is the latest since Abbott sent a letter to President Obama on Nov. 16 declaring Texas wouldn't be opening its doors to any Syrian refugees after the attacks in Paris.

Despite legal experts indicating otherwise, Abbott contends he does have authority to keep refugees out of Texas, pointing out a federal provision that says refugee resettlement groups must "cooperate" with state officials, per the Chronicle. At least one Texas-based faith organization that assists resettlement groups is taking on his strong-arming stance. Bee Moorhead, the director of Texas Impact, has deemed Abbott's anti-refugee initiative as an "unprecedented attempt on the part of a state agency to pressure private, nonprofit organizations to violate federal law and their federal contractual obligations," per the San Antonio Express-News. Now Moorhead tells the Chronicle that this latest letter "should raise serious concerns for refugees currently receiving assistance in Texas, and also for legislators," who she notes should be checking out potential financial repercussions of the commission's "increasingly contentious communications." (Ben Carson made a surprising visit overseas with Syrian refugees.)