Governor Greg Abbott has told President Obama that Texas will not accept any of the Syrian refugees the administration was planning to relocate in the lone star state.
With the flag of France hanging from the front porch of the governor's mansion, Monday morning, Governor Greg abbot held a moment of silence for the victims of the attacks in Paris.
After the noon ceremony Abbott explained why he sent a letter to President Obama. Its formal notification the state would no longer accept any Syrian refugee through a federal program which is managed by the state health and human services commission.
"They do not have the capability to distinguish between those refugees who can pose as terrorist, and those who may be innocent, and until the United States develops that capability it is essential that we do first things first, and that is and that is to keep the people of the state of Texas safe,” said Governor Abbott.
According to state record, last year 213 Syrian refugees (which includes 23 granted asylum) arrived in Texas. So far this year (FY16) 21 have relocated to Texas. The governor didn't say what he plans to do with them.
State Representative Tony Dale also believes a security gap exists in Texas. In a letter to Governor Abbott - and other state leaders- the Cedar Park Republican issued a warning. It was about how the federal government grants refugees special privileges -- and as a result - the state cannot prevent refugees from getting a Texas Driver’s License.
"So they could get a job in the airport, for example and they could plant something on a plane like we saw in the Sinai Peninsula recently when the Russian airline was taken down, they could board a plane legally in the United States,” said State Rep. Dale.
Federal officials confirmed that gun purchases are also possible by a refugee who has the proper federal document and a Texas Driver’s License. Legislation drafted by Representative Dale, during the previous Regular Session, would have modified how the state provides licenses to visiting foreign nationals, but it never made to the state house floor for debate.
"California when they issue drivers licenses to non-citizens specifically says that it is not to be used for a Federal purpose, not to be used for employment and that means it cannot be used to board a plane ... and presumably it could not be used to purchase a gun,” said Dale.
Representative Dale is requesting the Texas Speaker of the House to hold immediate hearings to close what he considers to be a Refugee Divers License loop hole. But the main issue, regarding the federal resettlement program, may have to be addressed on Capitol Hill. Texas Congressman Michael McCaul is among those urging the resettlement program to stop.
'I think it would be highly irresponsible to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees at this point in time. I've called upon the president to suspend this program,” said Congressman McCaul.
In Texas, according to the Texas HHS, the largest numbers of refugees are located in: Abilene, Amarillo, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. It’s estimated about 4,500 arrivals take place each year.
A spokesperson with a refugee advocacy group challenged the action by Governor Abbott and about a dozen other governors.
“Governors and state officials do not have the capability to prevent a refugee who is here and admitted lawfully to the U.S. from residing in their state. It is not something they can do,” said Lucy Carrigan, a spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee. “There is a close collaboration with governors and mayors and community leaders about the capacity of the area for refugees and where they can go, but once they have legal status, you cannot impede their transit between different states,” said Lucy Carrigan with the International Rescue Committee.
Lavinia Limon, head of the U.S Committee for Refugees and Immigration, also noted the Refugee Act of 1980, saying governors cannot block refugees.