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Gov. Abbott says Texas will not accept refugees from Syria

HOUSTON – Citing security concerns in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Texas governor Greg Abbott wrote a letter to President Obama Monday saying the state will no longer accept Syrian refugees.

"When we see the dangers that were caused by Syrian refugees in Paris it is imperative that Texas do everything we can to ensure that we don't have a Syrian refugee sneak into the state of Texas who can pose a similar terroristic danger," Abbott said.

Abbott also ordered the state department of Health and Human Services to end its participation in resettling Syrian refugees who are already here.

More than 200 Syrian refugees have entered the state since September 2014.  99 of them ended up in Harris County.

Abbott said even the FBI cannot perform adequate background checks to identify which refugees may want to do harm.

"They do not have the capability to distinguish between those refugees who can pose as terrorist and those who may be innocent," he said.

The president of the Houston chapter of the Syrian American Council condemned the governor's actions.

"Unfortunately Governor  Abbott has misplaced fear  and ignorance. It's about bigotry and xenophobia," said Shireen Jasser.

Houston mayor Annise Parker also spoke out against the decision.

"Not allowing refugees makes America look weak. It is the only humane thing to do," Parker said.

U.S. officials said Monday federal immigration law prevents Abbott from legally blocking any refugees.

The letter said, "Further, I - and millions of American -- implore you to halt your plans to accept more Syrian refugees in the United States.  A Syrian "refugee" appears to have been part of the Paris terror attack.  American humanitarian compassion could be exploited to expose Americans to similar deadly danger.  The reasons for such concerns are plentiful."

"Given the tragic attack in Paris and the threats we have already seen in Texas, coupled with the FBI director's acknowledgment that we do not have the information necessary to effectively vet Syrian nationals, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees -- any one of whom could be connected to terrorism - being resettled in Texas.

Effective today, I am directing the Texas Health & Human Services Commission's Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Texas.  And I urge you, as president, to halt your plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States.  Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity.  As such, opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril."