A federal judge Monday again ruled against Texas in its efforts to stop the resettlement of Syrian refugees, saying that while it would be "foolish" to deny there are risks following the Paris attacks, state officials have never shown an imminent danger to the public.
The decision by U.S. District Judge David Godbey is another setback for Republican leaders in Texas, which was the first state that sued the Obama administration over resettling families from the war-torn country but has failed to halt or even slow the arrival of any new refugees.
Godbey, who in December knocked Texas for offering "largely speculative hearsay" about extremists possibly infiltrating Syrian refugees, seemed to wink this time at the state demanding action from a judicial branch that GOP leaders often accuse of overreach.
"Somewhat ironically, Texas, perhaps the reddest of red states, asks a federal court to stick its judicial nose into this political morass, where it does not belong absent statutory authorization," wrote Godbey, who was appointed to the Dallas court by former President George W. Bush.
A spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the Republican is evaluating his next options.
"At a minimum, Texans deserve to know if the people moving into our communities and neighborhoods have a history of providing support to terrorists," spokeswoman Katherine Wise said.
Nearly 30 states vowed to ban Syrian refugees following the Paris attacks, which occurred in November and have been linked to the Islamic State group operating in Syria. Texas mounted the most aggressive campaign from the start by suing the federal government, which failed to halt the arrival of 21 Syrian refugees in December. Alabama filed a similar lawsuit in January.
The Obama administration says refugee vetting is rigorous and can take up to two years. In an 11-page ruling, Godbey wrote that "it is certainly possible that a Syrian refugee resettled in Texas could commit a terrorist act, which would be tragic."
But he said it is up to the federal government -- and not courts -- to decide that level of risk. Wise said Godbey acknowledged "the validity of our concerns" and says it is effectively up to Congress to give states a bigger voice when it comes to resettlements.
A resettlement group has asked that the lawsuit be dismissed.
In a statement released Monday evening, Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, said:
"We are relieved that Judge Godbey has once again denied Texas' attempt to bar an entire group of refugees from resettling in Texas based solely upon their nationality. That kind of discrimination would violate the Constitution, to say nothing of undermining our fundamental Texan values of equality and humanitarian aid to those in need."