The federal government is officially warning governors in states like Texas that they do not have the power to reject Syrian refugees.
In a letter dated Wednesday, the Office of Refugee Resettlement told state officials they would be breaking the law if they denied benefits or services to refugees contingent upon their country of origin or religious affiliation. States that defy the law could face suspension or termination of their refugee resettlement programs, according to the letter, which was signed by Robert Carey, director of the office.
Gov. Greg Abbott is one of more than two dozen mostly Republican governors who have voiced opposition to resettling Syrian refugees in their states. Their concerns were amplified following terrorist attacks earlier this month in Paris that have put Americans on edge about a similar threat in the United States.
Abbott has insisted he has the legal authority to refuse to accept Syrian refugees, citing a specific part of federal law. His office declined to comment on the letter, but the state agency that oversees refugee resettlement in Texas said it will not change course.