Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the state of Texas began notifying charities and other non-profit groups that they could be sued for helping Syrian refugees.
The Houston Chronicle reported on Monday that the first lawsuit threat had been issued to the Dallas chapter of the International Rescue Committee by Texas health commissioner Chris Traylor after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) claimed he had the power to overrule the federal government and block refugees from being resettled in the state.
"Texas has shouldered its share in supporting refugees from around the world," Traylor insisted in his letter to International Rescue Committee Executive Director Donna Duvin. "In a recent letter to my agency, the Governor noted that this unprecedented increase in Syrian refugees has caused many in the security community to raise alarm."
Traylor noted that some organizations had agreed to work with Texas to "identify alternative outcomes for refugees from Syria who might otherwise relocate to Texas."
"However, we have been unable to achieve cooperation with your agency," the Texas health commissioner insisted. "If you remain unwilling to cooperate with the state on this matter, we strongly believe that a failure to cooperate with the State on this matter violates federal law and your contract with the state."
"Failure by your organization to cooperate with the State of Texas as required by federal law may result in the termination of your contract with the state and other legal action," Traylor concluded.
Bee Moorhead of the faith-based group Texas Impact told the Chronicle that the letter raised "serious concerns" for refugees who were already living in Texas.
"The health commission interacts collegially and effectively every day with multiple federal agencies, so it's astonishing to see these kinds of communications coming from the agency," Moorhead pointed out.