Federal officials say eight Syrians have turned themselves over to immigration authorities along the Texas-Mexico border.
The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that two families — two men, two women and four children — presented themselves Tuesday in Laredo and are being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It's not uncommon for Syrians and others from the Middle East to seek asylum in the U.S. through various routes.
However, the detention of the Syrians in Texas comes at a time of heightened national security concern from several governors who oppose a federal plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks.
In response to the detentions, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted, "THIS is why Texas is vigilant about Syrian refugees."
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 19, 2015
Meanwhile, Abbott has ordered state law enforcement leaders to ensure that refugees in Texas don't "pose a risk to public safety."
The letter Tuesday came a day after Abbott and other governors across the U.S. said their states would no longer accept Syrian refugees following last week's attacks in Paris. Immigration experts, however, say governors cannot legally block refugees from settling in communities.
More than 190 Syrian refugees have arrived in Texas since Jan. 1.
Abbott spokesman John Wittman said the new directive to the Texas Department of Public Safety is not tied to a specific risk.
Abbott is also appointing a Texas refugee coordinator and directed the state health department to send changes in refugee policies to federal officials.
Texas Public Radio in San Antonio reports there are concerns of racial profiling:
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 said.
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.