State Representative Gene Wu announced today that he has sent a formal request to the U.S. Department of Justice asking that they investigate whether any Texas agency has violated the US Refugee Act of 1980, or if any Texas agency has violated the US Constitution or federal law by specifically targeting a group for discrimination based on their ethnicity or country of origin.
“Governor Abbott and Commissioner Chris Traylor’s order to resettlement organizations to stop accepting Syrian refugees is unprecedented in our state’s history; Texas has never before interfered with any prior refugee group,” said Representative Wu. “Our nation’s highest laws directly protect all people from discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, religion, and many other factors. This order to assistance groups may have violated federal law.”
Houston is home to over 70,000 refugees from 79 different countries, and resettles more refugees than any other city in the United States. Many refugee families reside in Texas House District 137 in Southwest Houston, along with numerous organizations offering programs, services, resources and support. The Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Refugee Services of Texas, YMCA International Services, Partnership for the Advancement & Immersion of Refugees — all of whom have offices in District 137 — are only some of the organizations working in Houston to assist refugees.
“The United States is a nation of immigrants. I am disturbed that our state’s leadership has chosen to target Syrian refugees and bully resettlement organizations in order to score political points,” said Representative Wu. “Targeting families who have already been victimized by ISIS and the Syrian civil war, and who have already been vetted through an intensive two-year federal review, is blatantly politicizing these refugees’ plight. I hope that the Department of Justice can put this issue to rest with their investigation.”
The directives from Abbott and Traylor may violate other federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on ethnicity and county of origin. Wu adds: “I find it especially distressing that the directives call for discrimination based on the refugees’ national origin or ethnicity. Such discrimination strikes against our nation’s concepts of individual freedom and justice. It has only been a few years since the US Congress issued a formal apology for passing the “Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 — a law banning a specific ethnic group or nationality from entry into the United States. I believe that the Texas directives may violate federal anti-discrimination laws as well.”