Syrian refugees brought to live in resistant TX

Posted at 9:44 AM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 10:44:13-05

DALLAS (AP) — Groups said Tuesday that they have settled a Syrian refugee family in Texas and another in Indiana, defying efforts by the governors of those conservative states to stop their arrival.

A Syrian family of six went to live Monday near relatives who were already living in the Dallas area, said Lucy Carrigan, a spokeswoman for the International Rescue Committee. And a Syrian couple and their two small children arrived safely in Indiana Monday night, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis said in a statement.

Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Mike Pence of Indiana were among more than two dozen Republican governors who said they would refuse any new Syrian refugees following the deadly Nov. 13 Paris attacks, which have been linked to the Islamic State group operating in Syria.

But federal officials and refugee agencies have continued resettlement. They say states are denying a safe haven to families displaced by war, and that a state's role in resettlement does not include the authority to block them.

In Dallas, the family of six settled into an apartment with basic furniture and a stocked refrigerator, Carrigan said.

"They seem very happy," Carrigan said. "And it was almost like breathing a sigh of relief that they have arrived. This has been a long journey for them, and it's been a long journey for a lot of Syrian refugees."

Texas has taken in more refugees than any other state in the last five years, including about 250 Syrian refugees. But it also fought harder than any other state to stop Syrian refugees after the attacks.

Texas' health commissioner sent letters to refugee resettlement agencies threatening them with the loss of state cooperation if they continued to bring in Syrians. They then filed a lawsuit against the International Rescue Committee and the federal government.

The state has since backed down from an immediate demand to halt the arrival of Syrian refugees. A hearing is expected in the lawsuit next week.

According to court filings made by federal officials, 15 additional Syrians are expected to arrive in Houston this week.

Carrigan declined to make family members available for an interview, but she said they were not fazed by the state's fight or concerns that they might not be welcome in Texas.

"They would just say that they were very happy to be coming here," Carrigan said.

The family that arrived in Indiana fled Syria three years ago and underwent two years of security checks before being allowed to enter the United States, Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin said in a statement.

Tobin met last week with Pence to discuss the governor's order blocking state agencies from assisting Syrian refugees following the deadly Paris attacks last month. Pence said afterward that he asked Tobin to not resettle the family in the state.

Tobin said he explained to the governor the plight of the Syrian couple and their two small children, who already have some relatives in Indianapolis.

"I listened to the governor's concerns regarding security and prayerfully considered his request that we defer from welcoming them until Congress had approved new legislation regarding immigrants and refugees," Tobin said.


Slodysko reported from Indianapolis. Associated Press writer Tom Davies in Indianapolis contributed to this report.