Is Amarillo, TX joining the “pockets of resistance” to refugee resettlement?

Update:  Readers may wish to contact Rep. Thornberry and encourage his willingness to speak up.  Contact info. is here—best to try the Amarillo office first then ask for a staff person who works on immigration issues.

It looks like David Lubell and his mind-police at Welcoming America’ have another emergency on their hands, this time in Texas!

In my previous post this morning I mentioned that ‘Welcoming America’ has been hired by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to help head off “pockets of resistance” to more refugee resettlement in immigrant over-loaded cities.  And, no sooner did I post it than reader Joanne sent along this hot news story—‘Amarillo struggles to handle influx of refugees‘ from the Texas Tribune.

Wyoming, why do you think the State Department needs you now?  They are running out of places to resettle thousands of new refugees entering the US each month!

US Rep Mac Thornberry: “We cannot keep going at the rate we’ve been going,”

Texas Tribune (emphasis is mine):

More international refugees were resettled in Texas in 2012 than in any other state, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. And one of the leading destinations is Amarillo, where members of Thawng’s church and other newcomers from places like Myanmar and Iraq often work in meatpacking plants.

Now local officials are worried that Amarillo’s refugee population is straining the Panhandle city’s ability to respond to 911 callers who speak numerous languages and to help schoolchildren learn English and adapt to a new culture.

“We’ve raised some red flags and said this isn’t good for some entities in the city or for the refugees themselves,” said Mayor Paul Harpole.

Amarillo, the state’s 14th largest city, with 195,000 residents, receives a higher ratio of new refugees to the existing population than any other Texas city, according to 2007-12 State Department data from U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon. And the only Texas cities that receive a larger number of refugees than Amarillo (which received 480 in 2012) are also the state’s largest: Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.

But those numbers show only a refugee’s initial placement and do not account for secondary migration, Thornberry said. Many refugees who initially settle elsewhere relocate to Amarillo for jobs or to join family members.

The State Department decides how many refugees are resettled in an area, and states review those recommendations. Last fall, the department, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and refugee placement organizations agreed that for 2014, placements in Amarillo should be limited to family reunifications, said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the commission.

“We cannot keep going at the rate we’ve been going,” Thornberry said.  [Readers:  we often see mayors raise red flags, but rarely is a Member of Congress brave enough to say something like this publicly!—ed]

Catholic Charities brought refugees for meatpacking jobs!  Where have we heard that before?

Now there aren’t so many of those jobs (someone please tell Grover to call off the amnesty, there are legal immigrants here looking for work!).

Even so, she soon considered Amarillo her home, and 17 years later, she’s still there. She is now interim director of refugee resettlement at Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle, which helps people who have fled war and persecution find homes and jobs. Many find work at area meatpacking plants, which often pay $14 an hour, Lohony said.

But Harpole said demand for workers at the plants was declining. “We just think it’s going to be more difficult for the refugees to do well here,” he said.

Educational challenges, cultural challenges and how not to go hunting for food on private property!  What! The do-gooders at Catholic Charities can’t feed them?  Shame on you!

For schools, challenges include educating students who sometimes cannot read in English or in their native language, Thornberry said.

“You look at the burden you’re placing on the school system not only to meet the testing requirements but to help integrate these kids into modern American life,” he said.

Cultural differences are also an issue outside schools, he said. Recently a refugee was found on a local ranch hunting for food.

“Obviously, it was quite a shock to some of the ranchers,” Thornberry said.

Check out our previous mentions of Amarillo—a preferred resettlement site in 2009—here.

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