December 1, 2015 / 12:51 AM / 4 years ago

Relief agency to resettle Syrians in Texas despite threats from state

DALLAS (Reuters) - A relief agency said on Monday it plans to resettle Syrian refugees in Texas despite a threat from the state to cut funding to the nonprofit organization if it tries to do so.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission warned the Dallas office of the International Rescue Committee in a letter last week that it would be in violation of its contract with the state if it did not comply with Governor Greg Abbott’s order to stop accepting Syrian refugees.

Abbott, a Republican, is concerned that U.S. security screening is ineffective and could allow in people with ties to terrorism, the letter said, giving the group until Monday to reply.

“As part of our mission and mandate from the U.S. Federal government, we will continue to resettle refugees in Texas and other states,” a spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee said in response to a Reuters email.

The group said in a statement it would like to meet Abbott and other state officials to discuss the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

The head of the Texas health commission, Chris Traylor, wrote to the group last week: “We have been unable to achieve cooperation with your agency. Specifically, your agency insists on resettling certain refugees from Syria in the near future.”

Texas leads the United States in resettling Syrian refugees from their country’s four-year civil war. But it became one of the first of more than 30 U.S. states to say they would refuse to accept Syrian refugees in statements following the deadly Paris attacks this month.

The opposition was part of a backlash against President Barack Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year. The U.S. House of Representatives, defying a veto threat by Obama, has passed Republican-backed legislation to suspend the refugee program.

Refugee advocates have said the governors have no legal power to exclude entry based on a person’s nationality to anyone in the United States legally.

They have also argued that the governors, mostly Republicans, are targeting those who are overwhelmingly victims rather than perpetrators of violence in Syria.The Texas commission said other resettlement agencies had agreed to find alternative placement options for Syrians who would otherwise relocate to Texas.

Texas has housed 180 Syrian refugees since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney

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