St. Jane Media continues its journalistic research series looking into the refugee crisis. This second report from the week of December 4 looks into the efforts made by humanitarian organizations to help settle refugees and the political obstacles faced by those organizations .
By Christian M. Patterson
The biggest NGO in the news this past week has been the New York non-profit International Rescue Committee (IRC).
IRC is the humanitarian aid organization trying to place refugees in Dallas. In response, the state of Texas has resisted placement, claiming that the IRC and the federal government have bypassed the state’s rights by not consulting them on the placement. Last week, Texas filed a lawsuit because of the perceived wrongdoings by IRC and the federal government. They also requested a restraining order to stop the placement of the two Syrian refugee families. Texas dropped the restraining order on December 4, but will continue their attempt to sue the federal government.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (THHSC) filed their lawsuit against the U.S. State Department, John Kerry and the IRC, on Wednesday December 2nd. Their claim was, as Reuters writes, that ‘such a move would be reckless and met with a cut in funding for the agency.’ Texas also claims that the U.S. Department has violated their ‘statutory duty’ by not consulting the State before planning to place refugees.
IRC claims they will continue plans to bring refugees to Dallas, regardless of Texas’s resistance for them to do so. The Texas Tribune reports THHSC chief Chris Traylor threatened IRC if they continued in resettling two Syrian families. However, IRC will continue because the refugees are all legally permitted in the United States, and the two families have relatives in North Texas.
In its official statement, IRC says, ‘we are confident that the IRC has always acted in accordance with the law when it comes to our work to assist refugees who have been given sanctuary in Texas.’ IRC then summarized why their movement of refugees to Texas is legitimate, stating they’ve been working with Texas for 40 years and this has not been an issue. In addition, IRC says it has followed every law possible to complete the move. They closed their statement claiming, ‘Refugees are the most security-vetted population who enter the United States. Multiple U.S. Government agencies conduct rigorous security checks. […] Put simply, entering the United States as a refugee is the most difficult way to gain access to the country.’
NPR reports that,‘hours after the federal government filed its brief’ in the lawsuit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Texas was withdrawing its restraining order request. The federal government claimed they gave Texas all the information they were obligated to regarding the two incoming Syrian refugee families. Ken Paxton released a statement saying the restraining order was dropped because of the federal government’s ‘willingness to provide more information about the incoming refugees’.
The State of Texas will continue suing the federal government, but IRC will remain able to move the refugees to Dallas.
In other news, The Telegraph reports that Islamic Relief USA, a non-profit humanitarian agency, recently organized an event to help the Homeless. Telegraph writes ‘the Muslim community came together to support homeless war veterans in Seattle.’ Also, Creative Review reports another NGO—Save the Children—‘has launched a photography project on Instagram, which features images taken by 12 Syrian teenagers who live inside the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.’
Over 80,000 refugees live in the Za’atari camp. For the past two years, Save the Children has taught photography classes at Za’atari, so the refugees can share their stories. The photography project called ‘My Own Account’ can be found on Instagram at @InsideZaatari and on Tumblr at insidezaatari.tumblr.com.
Finally, in non-NGO news, after the House of Representatives quickly tried to pass antiSyrian and Iraqi refugees, Congress is now focusing on ‘other pressing end-of-year business’, Politico writes. As the refugee issue simmers down, more conservatives are coming out against the anti-refugee legislation, including Henry Kissinger and retired general David Petraeus. The argument is that there’s no reason to focus on refugees as opposed to others entering the country for other reasons.
Republicans are anticipating a Democratic filibuster in the Senate to stop this legislation, so they’re considering including it with a ‘must-pass omnibus spending bill’. However, several Republican lawmakers—Politico lists Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rep. Steve Russell of Oklahoma—believe that the bill is shortsighted and confuses refugees with general immigrants. Politico writes that for Rep. Russell, it’s personal, due to a friend whose mother died in Syria before she could make it into America.
Politico concludes, ‘In the Turkish border town of Antakya, many refugees interviewed by a visiting POLITICO reporter expressed resentment that the U.S. was not taking in more Syrians.’ They focused on ‘Ayham, 29, of Damascus’ who expressed disappointment in the amount of refugees America accepted compared to Europe.