DALLAS - Police believe the Ohio State University attacker who briefly lived in Dallas was inspired by ISIS.
Abdul Razak Ali Artan made reference to ISIS-style attacks in a Facebook post on Monday before he attacked 11 people at the university. The Somali immigrant also talked about Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American-born leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen who was killed in 2011. But investigators say there’s no indication he had direct communication with ISIS.
Records reveal Artan and his family came to Dallas for about three weeks as refugees before resettling in Ohio. The attack and the Texas connection have fueled a new push to permanently withdraw Texas from the refugee resettlement program. But some argue this is all an effort to make headlines and that it won't actually do anything to keep Americans safe.
State Senator Don Huffines says the Ohio State attack is another reason Texas should not be participating in the federal program that helps pay for refugees' living expenses as they get established in the U.S.
“It's just a blessing. It's pure luck that he didn't commit his terrorist attack while he was here in Dallas,” the senator said.
Huffines’ bill would create a state law to back the governor's resolution to pull out of the refugee resettlement system.
“I certainly don't want to get the phone call from the police or FBI that my wife or kiddos are laying in the morgue or in the hospital as a victim of a terrorist attack. And neither does anyone else,” Huffines said.
Records show Artan came to Dallas in 2014 with his mother and six siblings. They were only in the metroplex for about 23 days before moving to Ohio.
The agency that helped them, Catholic Charities of Dallas, said it has been contacted by law enforcement and intends to assist in their investigation.
Two months ago, Governor Greg Abbott had already moved to withdraw Texas from the refugee program, effective January 31, 2017.
"The probabilities are, or at least the predictability is, that when refugees come in from terrorist-based nations, there's a higher probability something like this could happen,” Abbott said.
The federal government has argued the screening process for refugees is extensive. And despite the governor's declaration, Texas will likely still continue receiving refugees.
But even with the opposition, the reality is the state likely can't stop resettlement of refugees. Right now, Texas acts as a middle man for federal funds, taking in money and redistributing it among nonprofits that contract with federal authorities to help resettle refugees.
The federal government has said it will likely just find another way to get the money to those organizations. It’s something Huffines acknowledges.
“It doesn't mean the federal government won't keep resettling refugees here. They're just not going to get the state of Texas' cooperation or participation in the program,” he explained.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says Texas should not turn its back on the very families trying to flee terrorism.
“The vast majority of people who come here from war torn countries are women and children fleeing violence and the possibility of death,” the judge said. “It's an American value that when our country processes their papers that we are a welcoming community for them."
Dallas Immigration Attorney Paul Zoltan says lawmakers’ focus on refugees in the fight against terror is misplaced and that a terrorist looking for entry into the U.S. could find an easier path than through a refugee camp.
“If I put myself in the shoes of someone who wants to come here to hurt, I would choose almost any other route than the refugee admissions process because it is so long, and it is so intrusive.”
While state lawmakers are making the efforts to withdraw from the refugee resettlement program, it’s unclear how President-elect Donald Trump will react to them. He may direct a policy that allows the federal government to defer to states or decide to stop allow refugees from certain parts of the world to come into the U.S. at all.
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