Gov. Abbott: Texas won't accept Syrian refugees

DALLAS — Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will not accept any Syrian refugees into the state after Friday's attack in Paris that killed at least 129 people.

"And I demand the U.S. act similarly," he said in a tweet. "Security comes first."

A letter from the governor's office to President Barack Obama was attached to the tweet. In it, Abbott urged Obama to halt any plans to take in Syrian refugees into the United States.

"A Syrian 'refugee' appears to have been part of the Paris terror attack," the letter read. "American humanitarian
compassion could be exploited to expose Americans to similar deadly danger. The reasons for such concerns are plentiful."

French officials say a Syrian passport was found on a bomber who targeted France's national soccer stadium, spurring concerns that militants, posing as refugees, were crossing the border.

Cynthia Leigh, an immigration attorney in Austin, said advocates for refugees "deplore this sort of announcement." But Leigh said Abbott's move was likely legal because resettlement policies are at the discretion of local communities.

In his letter to Obama, Abbott referenced two recent North Texas events, including an attempted attack in May on a "draw the Prophet Muhammad" event that took place in Garland.

"The threat posted to Texas by ISIS is very real," the letter states. "ISIS claimed credit last May when two terrorist gunmen launched and attack in Garland, Texas. Less than two weeks later, the FBI arrested an Iraqi-born man in North Texas and charged him with lying to federal agents about traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS."

In the Garland incident, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi were killed by police outside the Curtis Culwell Center after they allegedly shot at a police vehicle with assault rifles.

The allegations that a man lied to federal agents are aimed at Bilal Abood, a 37-year-old Iraqi native who's been living in Mesquite. In September, he filed paperwork indicating he plans to plead guilty to the charges.

In September, the U.S. State Department announced it would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees next year. Thousands have fled war-stricken Syria, mostly to Europe and Turkey, as the terrorist group ISIS has taken over much of the nation's territory.

It is unclear how many of those refugees would have ended up in Texas, but in recent years, the Lone Star State has accepted about 10 percent of the 70,000 refugees admitted into the country annually.

About 120 Syrian refugees have already been resettled in Texas this year.

The move comes after governors in Alabama and Michigan also announced their states will also refuse to take in Syrian refugees. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder both made the announcements Sunday.

"Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration," Snyder said in the statement. "But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents."

While Bentley admitted that no credible threats have been directed at Alabama, nor did the state have plans to settle refugees, he said he wouldn't "place Alabamians at even the slightest possible risk of an attack on our people."

About 250,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, which started in 2011, according to the United Nations. Since the war's start, more than 4 million refugees have fled to other countries.

USA TODAY contributed to this report


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment