Senator questions State compliance with restrictions on federal refugee dollars

Published 9:59 am Monday, November 23, 2015

From staff reports


Texas Senator Charles Perry, District 28 has requested an opinion of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, on Tuesday, in regards to the State compliance with restrictions on federal refugee dollars.

Perry asked for Attorney General Ken Paxton opinion following Governor Greg Abbott’s letter to President Barrack Obama refusing Syrian refugees in Texas.

In the letter of opinion request, Perry wrote: “Earlier this year ISIUD released a list of potential future targets, with seven Texas cities explicitly mentioned: Abilene, New Braunfels, San Antonio, Wylie, Fort Hood, Bedford, and Killeen.”

Perry questioned, in the letter, must the state comply with restrictions on federal refugee dollars that are not found in the text of federal law and if the state is not bound by the restrictions, is there legal prohibition to the state performing security verifications when allocating refugee funding?

Perry also wrote he is inquiring into the state’s options to protect itself “from an inept and unresponsive executive branch that has left the citizens of the nation prone to attacks.”

Perry represents the largest Senate District in the State of Texas, a region consisting of 51 counties in the district.

Perry currently chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs. He was the first freshman to receive a chairmanship in the Texas Senate since 1993. He additionally sits on the Senate Committees on Criminal Justice, Health and Human Services, and Higher Education according to

Governor Greg Abbott, on Tuesday, appeared on Fox News’ “The Real Story” with host Gretchen Carlson to discuss his decision to reject President Obama’s plan to relocate Syrian refugees in the United States. On Monday, Governor Abbott sent a letter to President Obama informing him that Texas will not be accepting refugees from Syria, according to a press release.

“Texas has done more than its fair share of accepting people that you’ve seen stream across our borders,” said Governor Abbott in the interview. “We’ve had three ISIS related incidents already and now with the possible connection of one of the Syrian refugees being involved in the terrorist attack in Paris, Texas is saying ‘no more.’ We will not allow anymore Syrian refugees into the State of Texas.”

In the letter to the president, Abbott wrote, “The FBI director testified to Congress that the federal government does not have the background information that is necessary to effectively conduct proper security checks on Syrian nationals, Director Comey explained: “‘We can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them.” The threat posed to Texas by ISIS is very real. ISIS claimed credit last May when two terrorist gunmen launched an 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. And in 2014, when I served as Texas attorney general, we participated in a Joint Terrorism Task Force that arrested two Austin residents for providing material support to terrorists – including ISIS.”

Abbott has directed the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Texas.

“Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees – any one of whom could be connected to terrorism – being resettled in Texas,” Abbott said in the letter to the president. “Effective today [Monday], I am directing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Texas. And I urge you, as President, to halt your plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States.”

“Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity,” Governor Abbott continued. “As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril.”

Abbott has appointed Cecile Young as the State Refugee Coordinator for a term set to expire at the pleasure of the Governor. The State Coordinator will have the responsibility and authority to ensure coordination of public and private resources in refugee resettlement in the State.

Young, of Austin, is chief of staff of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Previously, she served as senior special projects advisor for Governor Rick Perry and as an associate commissioner of the HHSC Office of Health Coordination and Consumer Services.

Young has over twenty-eight years of state government budget and policy experience, and she has served three governors, an attorney general, and a state representative. Young received a Bachelor of Science from Texas Tech University.

On Thursday, The House of Representatives approved a bill, H.R. 4038, to suspend the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the country until national security agencies certified they do not pose a security risk. The bill was passed with a 289-137 vote.

“While today’s bill is not as strong as I wanted it to be, it does place new restrictions on the President by requiring the FBI Director, DHS Secretary and DNI Director to personally sign off on each refugee to ensure he or she is not a threat to our national security,” U.S. Rep. Brian Babin said. “This is certainly better than current law and will compel these agencies to conduct a more thorough background check.  If they cannot conduct such an investigation, they won’t be coming in.”