Texas collides with cities, agencies on Syrian refugee question

Texas collides with cities, agencies on Syrian refugee question

While Texas cities roll out the welcome mat for Syrian refugees, the state threatens to withhold funding from charities that facilitate settlement.


Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Chris Traylor warned agencies: “I must ask that you fulfill your statutory duty to conduct your activities ‘in close cooperation and advance consultation’ with the State of Texas pursuant to section 1522 of Title 8 of the United States Code.”

“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 stated in a letter to 19 refugee agencies.

Meantime, cities are ready to welcome Syrian refugees admitted by the Obama administration.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings brushed aside terror concerns over migrants from the home of ISIS — the Islamic State in Syria.

“I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools, theaters and shoot people up,” Rawlings told MSNBC.

Applauding refugees in San Antonio, City Councilman Ron Nirenberg said, ”I’ve gotten to experience the sense of optimism and hope that is strong in San Antonio’s refugee population. Now, we are working to make sure that strength is matched by native San Antonians, eager to lend a helping hand.”

Nirenberg did not specifically comment on the expected influx of Syrian refugees, but a local assistance agency said they’re coming and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott should back off his objections.

“It’s not going to be worth the governor suing the national government,” Jean Sherrill, manager of the private Center for Refugee Services, told Watchdog.org.

Sherrill said the San Antonio center aids 500-700 refugees from around the world each month, though some of those are repeat customers.

Some 4,500 refugees land in Texas annually, and the United States has pledged to add 10,000 Syrians over the next year.

Traylor said:

The governor believes that accepting refugees from Syria is incompatible with an absolute commitment to the safety of Texans because the president has shown the governor no willingness to improve the security screenings of refugees from Syria, despite the abundant evidence that the screenings are ineffective.

Abbott, a former attorney general, told Breitbart news he supports taking legal action cut off state funding of non-compliant agencies.

Aaron Rippenkroeger, president and CEO of Refugee Services of Texas, one of the largest refugee-coordinating agencies, said in a statement:

We continue to seek guidance on the ramifications of the federal and state of Texas Health and Human Services Commission requirements in light of the state’s request to discontinue resettlement services for Syrian refugees in the future.

Refugees in Texas receive an array of public services — from cash assistance to medical care. HHSC spokesman Bryan Black said refugee assistance is funded through federal programs administered by the state agency.

Larry Korkmas, president of Texans for Immigration Reduction and Enforcement, noted that sanctuary cities, which offer safe haven to illegal migrants, could become magnets for refugees. A majority of Texas refugee agencies are located in self-appointed sanctuary cities.

“The Texas citizenry has not seen a secure border in over 30 years, and the crime problem in the cities is related to that,” Korkmas said from Houston, a sanctuary city.

“Council people, lawmakers and presidents don’t get to pick and choose which laws to follow. While no state law has banned the refugees, the governor of this state has said ‘no’ for security reasons,” said Terri Hall, president of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom.

Don Kirchoff, spokesman for the San Antonio Tea Party, said, “Refugees may be safe in San Antonio, but San Antonio residents may not be safe from poorly vetted refugees.”

“We do support relocating refugees in countries of their culture and prefer to support H.R. 4032, the States’ Right of Refugee Refusal Act of 2015 sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe,” Kirchoff added.

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.


Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”


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