Judge: Texas's Decision to Ban Refugees Based on “Speculative Hearsay”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton apparently can't make up his mind.

The AG, who's facing prosecution for no less than three felony counts of securities fraud, reversed course on Wednesday and again asked a federal judge to issue a restraining order to block nine Syrian refugees who are scheduled to arrive in the Texas today. Last week Paxton sued the federal government and a Dallas-based aid group that resettled two Syrian families, including six children, that landed in Houston and Dallas on Monday. Texas withdrew its request for a restraining order last Friday minutes after the feds responded by calling the state's concerns baseless and “uninformed.”

However, referencing public statements by Texas Congressman Mike McCaul, a Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, that the White House has been “downplaying the threat” of terrorism, Paxton again filed for a restraining order on Wednesday, hoping to block nine refugees set to arrive in Texas Thursday. In his filing, Paxton also speculated that “terrorist organizations may have infiltrated the very refugee program that is central to the dispute before this court.”

Within hours Federal District Court Judge David C. Godbey shot down Paxton's request, writing that Texas “has failed to show by competent evidence that any terrorists have actually infiltrated the refugee program, much less that these particular refugees are terrorists intent on causing harm.” Godbey wrote, “The Court finds that the evidence before it is largely speculative and hearsay.”

Gov. Greg Abbott is one of several Republican governors who have vowed to close the door on refugees fleeing violence in Syria, something the feds have argued that states do not have the right to do. In his order denying Texas's request Wednesday, Judge Godbey seemed to underscore that point, writing:
The fact that this Court is required to assess the risk posed by a group of Syrian refugees illustrates one of the problems with this case. The Court has no institutional competency in assessing the risk posed by refugees. That is precisely the sort of question that is, as a general matter, committed to the discretion of the executive branch of the federal government, not to a district court. 
Abbott sat alongside U.S. Senator Ted Cruz earlier this week to push legislation that allow states to reject refugees. 
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Michael Barajas
Contact: Michael Barajas