DALLAS (AP) — Twelve Syrian refugees were scheduled to arrive in Texas on Monday after the state eased up in its legal fight against resettlement agencies and the federal government.
The refugees, including six children, were expected to join relatives already settled in Dallas and Houston. Another nine refugees are scheduled to arrive in Houston Thursday.
The International Rescue Committee, which is resettling six people with relatives already living with Dallas, would not confirm Monday night that the family had arrived. Those six were re-routed to New York last week, but they were expected to proceed to Dallas after the state of Texas backed down in court from trying to immediately stop them.
Refugee settlement agencies would not confirm the refugees slated for Houston had arrived either.
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State officials fought for weeks to stop them, saying Syrian refugees posed an unacceptable security risk after the deadly Nov. 13 Paris attacks.
But two days after suing one resettlement agency, the International Rescue Committee, and federal officials, the state on Friday withdrew its request for an order immediately stopping the refugees from entering Texas. The lawsuit remains pending, and a judge could hear arguments in the case this week.
Texas took in nearly 250 Syrians before the Paris attacks. Federal officials said in court filings that they plan to resettle as many as 250 Syrians in Texas during the current fiscal year.
Governors in about 30 states since the attacks have said they don’t want to accept any more refugees, though none have fought as hard as Texas. Advocates say connecting refugees to fears of terrorism is misguided, and federal officials say states don’t have the power to refuse them.
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The refugees expected in Texas include a family of six related to people already settled in the Dallas area. The family arrived in New York on Thursday night and stayed there through the weekend after originally being expected to go directly to Texas.
The family is expected to take an apartment in the same complex as several other Syrians. The lower-income complex in northeast Dallas is home to recent arrivals from around the world. Volunteers have collected furniture, hygiene products and other items for the apartment — including a bicycle each for the two children in the family.
Meanwhile, eight Syrians who turned themselves over to immigration authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border have passed their first hurdle to seeking asylum but remain detained in Texas.
Jonathan Ryan who is representing the two families— two men, two women and four children— says the Syrians have passed their credible fear interviews and have undergone background checks that show they don’t pose a danger. However, he says the families have not been released because of “law enforcement interest.”
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately return a message Monday seeking more details on the immigrants, who turned themselves in last month in Laredo.
Ryan, director of San Antonio-based RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, said that the Syrian families should be released on parole and that it’s unusual for them to be detained after passing their credible fear interview. The Syrians are Christians who are fleeing the civil war in their home country, he said.
“Their main goal is to save their own lives,” he said. “If they can be freed, I know that is a Christmas wish come true.”
These asylum seekers are not counted among the 85,000 refugees announced earlier this year by the Obama administration, which includes about 10,000 Syrians. For Syrians with means, a lengthy trek to the U.S. border could provide another path to asylum.