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Paxton opines on Syrian refugees


Attorney General Ken Paxton sought Tuesday to bolster the state’s thus-far unsuccessful efforts to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in Texas by issuing a legal opinion that stresses the state’s rights in the matter.

His opinion, which doesn’t carry the force of law, said any conditions placed on the state’s acceptance of federal refugee dollars would likely be unenforceable. He added that there are no laws stopping the state from doing security checks when allocating those funds.

But some constitutional experts were quick to tamp down the gambit’s practical import.

Pointing out that a federal judge has twice rejected the state’s efforts to block Syrian refugee resettlement, some predicted that the opinion, if tested, would meet a similar fate. And experts added that Paxton’s stance fits a broader conservative effort to constrain the federal government.

“It’s not anything particularly new,” said Samuel Bagenstos, a constitutional law professor at the University of Michigan School of Law. “I just don’t think it’s an effort that’s likely to be successful.”


Paxton said that any conditions attached to federal refugee dollars would likely be unenforceable since few restrictions are found in the text of federal law. Rather, those standards have been established by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“In delegating this authority to a federal agency, Congress itself has failed to provide clear notice to the states about the conditions it is attaching to a state’s acceptance of federal refugee dollars,” Paxton wrote in his opinion.

Bagenstos, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, said that follows an argument that conservative state attorneys general have been making for years, often in relation to federal education dollars. But he said recent case law has rejected that kind of argument.

See here and here for the most recent updates. The state sought but failed to get a preliminary injunction barring the feds from placing refugees here. I haven’t seen any further news to indicate that Paxton has pursued this further in the courts. Clearly, he’ll get a better deal from his own office, and someone asked him for an opinion, so here we are. Hope he didn’t use the good paper printing it out, it’ll be less painful when this has to go to the shredder. The Chron has more.

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  1. brad m says:

    I’ll be sure to send Paxton the $800 donation receipt to the International Rescue Committee for the bake sale proceeds that my daughter held to raise money for Syrian refugees.

    Paxton is such a blowhard.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    @ Brad:

    First, good on you for instilling the value of charity and helping others in your daughter. Private charitable giving is a great thing, and thank you for teaching the next generation.

    Now, having said that, the $ 800 will go a lot farther in supporting refugees that are housed in countries with a lower cost of living than the US. Why can’t they be taken in by countries that speak the same language and share similar cultural norms, that have lower costs of living? Bringing them here is about the most expensive way possible to help them, and surely you can understand the apprehension some folks would have about bringing people who are not vetted satisfactorily from a place where Islamic terrorism is pretty popular. The Germans have found some of their refugees had ISIS ties, after the fact. It’s not inconceivable that we could get some bad apples here.

    The best bang for the buck here (no pun intended) is for them to be resettled elsewhere.

    Regarding Paxton particularly, I agree with you. That doesn’t mean every thing he does in his official capacity is wrong.