AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – The Refugee Language Project gave the 2021 Amarillo refugee state of the union this past week.
It’s meant to address topics, needs, and concerns affecting the refugee population here in the city.
Dr. Ryan Pennington, executive director and founder of the Refugee Language Project explains that a refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
He said it’s a legal status and that person must be registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Dr. Pennington said Amarillo sees a lot of secondary migration, which is when refugees are resettled, they typically relocate to other areas. Dr. Pennington said this is due to the low cost of living, job availability, and stabilized population of refugees here in the Texas Panhandle.
“Secondary migrates are coming to work in meatpacking plants and to reconnect with family. That is what we are seeing, nothing revolutionary there, but it is important to recognize,” said Dr. Pennington.
Amarillo has seen a decrease in refugee arrivals over the past decade according to Dr. Pennington.
They also talked about why refugees are leaving the area due to the need for better jobs and an easier road to citizenship and a possible community center.
Dr. Pennington said the continent with the highest arrivals of refugees here in Amarillo is Asia, with Burma being the country with the most refugees arriving in the past five years.
Dr. Pennington said 59% of refugees who were enrolled in ESL classes in 2020 were just beginning to learn English or had some understanding of English.
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