Refugee Population Growing too Quickly in Amarillo

- AMARILLO -- Amarillo has a long history of welcoming refugees.  But, sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad.

    Over the last five calendar years, more than 2,700 refugees have resettled in Amarillo.  That represents roughly 1.3% of our current population.

    Other, much larger Texas cities, have much less.

    Fort Worth, for example, has the next highest total with 0.69%.  Followed by Dallas (0.52%), Houston (0.47%), Austin (0.37%) And San Antonio (0.25%).

    The U.S. state department recently met with Amarillo community leaders about the number of refugees settling in the city.

    The concern is that services and infrastructure in the city can't keep up with the fast growing refugee population.

    Nearly 70,000 refugees came to America last year.  The U.S. is one of 24 countries that take-in asylum seekers each year and Amarillo has long been a part of the refugee resettlement program.

    Right now, the bulk of refugees coming to Amarillo are from Burma, followed by Iraq and Iran.

    Refugees will always be welcome but, right now, the numbers are growing too quickly. Putting too many in one place and putting too much burden on the schools system or the police or fire, is not healthy for refugees or us." Mayor Paul Hapole said.

   There are two organizations that help refugees in the resettlement process:  Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle and Refugee Services of Texas.

   They were both asked three years ago to reduce the number of refugees brought to Amarillo.  But, original resettlements are not the main problem.

   Nancy Koons, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle said.  "In addition to that we see a lot of secondary refugees that settle in other cities then choose to move to Amarillo because they have family here, they like the weather or they know that there's employment."

   Despite the efforts to reduce the number of refugees brought into Amarillo, the population is still growing too fast.  That's why congressman Mac Thornberry brought the state department to Amarillo to meet with community leaders.

   "One of the things I hope we can accomplish is helping the state department understand that we're not just dealing with the people they bring to Amarillo.  But, it's the relatives and the secondary migration that we're also dealing with and they've also got to take that into account."  Thornberry said.

   Mayor Harpole is confident they'll find a solution.  "We're now looking at how we can work together to help the refugees that come here and sustain them here and really, make them a part of the community."

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