Amarillo, TX - A bill to halt refugees resettling in the United States could substantially affect Amarillo taxpayers.
Amarillo has the highest number of refugees in the country per capita, and according to one Texas representative, if this number increases, taxpayers will feel the burden.
Since President Obama took office, government reports show nearly 500,000 new immigrants have come to the U.S. under the resettlement program, and 69,490 refugees from more than a dozen countries have resettled in Texas since 2002.
Because of the surge, Texas U.S. Representative, Brian Babin, has introduced legislation that would halt the resettlement of United-Nations certified refugees in the U.S. pending a full evaluation on the program's impact on the nation's economy and national security.
With Amarillo being very familiar with refugee resettlement, our area could be impacted the most.
"The challenge is recently, we have been overloaded. we are taking in more refugees than we can handle," Area U.S. Representative, Mac Thornberry, said. "And whether you look at the schools, the health care, the jobs, the law enforcement, it's just too much."
Thornberry said he takes pride in our area refugee programs, however he said if more are accepted, local government and taxpayers will feel the strain.
"I don't think anybody much says, we don't want any refugees, but by some measures, we have as many or more refugees in recent years come to Amarillo than any other city certainly in Texas," Thornberry said. "And I've heard even in the country. so we want to be smart about it, so that's what we are trying to regulate."
Thornberry proposes spreading out refugees throughout the country, creating other cities to host refugees the way Amarillo does, rather than sending them all to one place. However, local refugee services, such as the Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle and Refugee Services of Texas disagree with the bill.
Both agencies jointly released this statement:
"Every year, the United States carefully screens, documents, and resettles close to 70,000 refugees from countries all over the world. Displaced as a result of violence or oppression, these refugees, through often harrowing circumstances, were forced to leave everything behind, including loved ones, to find safety in a foreign land."
The agencies go on to say refugees in the Panhandle receive minimal assistance and must obtain employment and become fully self-sufficient, tax-paying community members within six months. They go on to say, "The U.S. refugee resettlement program is vital to the safety and well-being of thousands of families at risk worldwide and the program should continue uninterrupted."