In a letter sent Tuesday, Gov. Abbott asked Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw to work with federal and local law enforcement to ensure that more than 200 Syrian refugees already living in Texas do not pose a public safety risk.
The Governor’s office says Public Safety officials will decide how that will be done. But during an impromptu interview at the capitol, McCraw declined to provide details.
McCraw was asked if he was sure what the Governor was asking for?
“Oh, I’m quite certain what he’s asked us to do, and quite certain I will be able to fulfill his requirements but as to the how, why and when and where, we’re not going to discuss that publicly,” McCraw explained.
McCraw wouldn’t discuss the possibility that checking up on Syrian refugees would constitute a form of racial profiling illegal under a state law passed by the legislature in 2001. Among other things, it prohibits law enforcement from asking about a person’s national origin.
“I’m not going to go down that road, they’re talking policy, all we do is implement,” McCraw said.
But Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, says the governor’s call sounds like racial profiling and that disturbs him.
“I think we ought to open our doors to people who are under attack in their own countries, we’ve done that time and time again. Why are people from Syria any different than people from Vietnam or people from other countries that were escaping oppression,” Coleman asked.
The American Civil Liberties Union is also watching how the State tries to verify refugees are Syrian and non-violent. Terri Burke is the ACLU Executive Director for Texas.
“Racial profiling never works. They should focus on creditable threats if he is concerned. Use law enforcement wisely instead of some random, misdirected, undirected effort to run around and check out refugees,” Burke said.
Burke say the ACLU will be monitoring the Department of Public Safety to see how it tracks Syrian refugees in Texas, and is prepared to go to court.
“We will always look at legal action if we think its necessary and if people are profiled, if people are wrongly treated by the state where the state has no business we will take action,” Burke explained.
Abbott is one of 26-state governors that refuse to help relocate 10-thousand Syrian refugees over the next year.