Texas Panhandle City Says ‘Enough’ on Middle East Refugees

Middle East Refugees
File Photo: ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images

A city in the Texas Panhandle says “enough already” when it comes to resettling refugees from the Middle East.

The city of Amarillo now sports the dubious title of having the country’s highest ratio of refugees from Middle East nations. City officials are asking for a halt to the resettlement of these refugees because of the negative impact on their community.

Amarillo is now home to more than 1,000 refugees from the Middle East. This gives the city the highest ratio of refugees in the nation, Watchdog.org’s Kenric Ward reported. This has created problems for city and school officials.

One resident, William Sumerford, an activist for local taxpayers, said the Amarillo schools are dealing with large numbers of children who can’t speak English. “We have something like twenty-two languages spoken in our schools,” he told Ward.

City of Amarillo officials are working on a plan to halt the placement of these refugees in their community. “We’ve been a giving community, and it’s a huge disservice to bring in refugees in numbers that we’re not able to handle. We create small ghettos,” Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole told Ward.

“A group of Somalis came in to say they had elected a mayor of their community,” he continued. “Then another faction claimed they had their own leader. We come to find out that rival tribes — slaves and masters — were being settled together.”

The state of Texas is also trying to stop the flow of refugees from Syria from being resettled into Texas. Governor Greg Abbott called on the President to stop the importation of any more Syrian refugees into the U.S., Breitbart Texas reported. He cited security concerns about the federal government’s ability to effectively screen the refugees.

“Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees – any one of whom could be connected to terrorism – being resettled in Texas,” Governor Abbott said in a letter to President Obama. “Effective today, I am directing the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Texas. And I urge you, as President, to halt your plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States.”

Two weeks later, Texas officials doubled down by threatening to sue any organizations who are bringing refugees into Texas, Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick reported. Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Chris Traylor sent letters and admonished agencies in the state who help Syrian refugees while refusing to cooperate with Texas officials, saying, “I must ask that you fulfill your statutory duty to conduct your activities ‘in close cooperation and advance consultation’ with the State of Texas pursuant to section 1522 of Title 8 of the United States Code.”

Abbott’s concerns grew out of statements made by President Obama’s top security officials who testified before the House Homeland Security Committee about their lack of confidence in the background screening process for these refugees.

Shadwick reported on this committee hearing in November:

Lamar Smith asked about the vetting process and noted that terrorist organizations would most likely have individuals come into the country who have not yet committed a crime or had “a public background,” or committed a terrorist act.

DHS Secretary Johnson answered the vetting question by saying that every alleged refugee is interviewed, and that they complete an application. Smith responded saying that you are then essentially relying upon the refugee who is filling out the application, and “you can’t go beyond that, so you are sorta having to take their word for it.”

Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Nicholas Rasmussen, responded to a question from Smith about whether terrorists would likely try to use these refugee programs to gain access to the United States. “We have certainly seen terrorist groups talk about, think about, exactly what you are describing, Mr. Smith. Trying to use available programs to get people not only into the United States, but into western European countries as well. So we know that they aspire to do that.” He said he did not know if he could say that they would likely succeed, Shadwick reported.

Abbott’s security concerns were validated by recent events that include the terrorist attack in San Bernardino and the recent arrest of an Iraqi refugee in Houston on terrorism related charges. “This is precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the U.S. from countries substantially controlled by terrorists,” Abbott said in a statement reported by Breitbart Texas.

“I once again urge the President to halt the resettlement of these refugees in the United States until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans,” the governor stated.

Both the San Bernardino terrorist attack and the arrest of the Iraqi refugee in Houston reveal the weakness of the State Department’s screening process.

Watchdog.org reported that it is difficult to obtain information about the refugees being resettled in Texas. “Detailed information about refugees is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain because the federal government runs its refugee program through faith-based contractors exempt from Freedom of Information Act provisions,” Ward wrote.

William Sumerford told Ward, “Hospitals, welfare, police, you name it, are strained. That all comes back on our city budget.”

Mayor Harpole agreed with Sumerford on the schools. “We have 660 (refugee) kids who don’t speak English and the U.S. Department of Education says they have to be at grade level within one year,” the mayor said.” It’s a ludicrous requirement — they don’t even know how to use the bathroom.” He said Washington D.C. only pays schools $100 per refugee student per year.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.



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