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State Leaders Continue to Push for Refugee Resettlement Ban

Gage Skidmore/Texas Tribune

State officials including Governor Greg Abbott continue to push the federal government to stop allowing Syrian refugees in to the country. Some are also trying to figure out how Texas can keep those refugees out of the state.

Most of the official statements by Texas Republicans have focused on stopping Syrians from entering the country until the government can guarantee that none of the refugees will harm U.S. citizens. But others have taken it a step further.

Governor Greg Abbott had already directed the state Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees. Tuesday he went on FOX News to say the state will not allow any more Syrian refugees into the state.

He also directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to check in with any Syrian refugees already in Texas, to make sure they don't pose a threat. About 200 Syrians have settled in Texas over the past year.

Finally, Abbott created a new State Refugee Coordinator position to watch over public and private resources used to resettle refugees. The governor's press office declined to give any more specifics on the new position, or explain how it differs from officials already at the state’s resettlement program.

The White House held a conference call Tuesday with 34 governors to better explain the refugee resettlement process. Gov. Abbott was not on the call, which was led by White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.

NPR reports that during the nearly 90-minute call, there was "an extensive question and answer session among the governors and Administration officials."

Refugee program leaders in Texas and across the country have disputed claims by Abbott and other governors that they can block Syrian refugees from coming to their states. Abbott and others have continued as if it is in their power. But just in case, State Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to give his legal opinion on whether Abbott can block refugees’ entry.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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