Texans Prepare for Syrian Refugees

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More Syrians have been settled in Texas than any other state and it’s likely more will be moving in soon. President Barack Obama announced the U.S. will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees in the fiscal year 2016, which starts next month.

About 10 percent of all refugees admitted into the U.S. each year—about 7,000 people— wind up in Texas. In the last year, the U.S. has taken in about 1,400 Syrian refugees and more than 172 of them are in Texas.

 “They’ve all had  some sort of trauma.  They have all been through civil war, displacement, persecution — some of them have been jailed, tortured — all sorts of horrors,” said Lubna Zeidan, refugee program director at Interfaith Action of Central Texas, or iACT.

Zeidan said it’s not safe for them to return home.

“If I had never made it I don’t know if I’d still be alive,” said Qahtan Mustafa.

Mustafa and his family came to Texas as refugees in 2009. He knows what it’s like to be in danger and to have nowhere to go. 

“Car bombs, attacks, no food, no water, no life,” Mustafa said he got a second chance at life in the U.S.

He now supervises the resettlement program at Refugee Services of Texas. 

“I’ve been in their shoes.” 

Mustafa says that to every refugee family he picks up from the airport. 

“I tell them you’re in a safer place. You’re in a place where people will treat you like human beings,” Mustafa said.

Four years of civil war has forced millions to flee Syria. At iACT, Zeidan said this is nothing new.  

GOP presidential hopeful, Ben Carson said, “They could easily be people who‘ve been infiltrated by terrorists and recognize that once you bring them in you have to bring other members of their family in.” 

Carson said the U.S. cannot afford the risk, he said taking in Syrian refugees could threaten national security.

“These are people that are running from war not trying to foster it,” said Aaron Rippenkroeger, CEO for Refugee Services of Texas.  

“They are the most scrutinized and screened and interviewed and assessed of all the people coming to the United States,” Rippenkroeger said.

Refugee admissions are determined by the U.S. Department of State and the extensive vetting process can take up to two years.

“If I had never made it I don’t know if I’d still be alive,” Mustafa said.

Resettlement agencies across the state are preparing to see more Syrian refugees but it’s still unclear how many are coming to Texas and when.

According to the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. will likely reach its 70,000 cap on refugees in fiscal year 2015, which ends at the end of this month.

Effective, Oct. 1, 2015, the U.S. refugee cap will increase to 75,000 but resettlement agencies would like to see that number go up even more.

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