Texas Panhandle experiencing 'record low' refugee intake

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The intake of refugees in the Panhandle is at a record low.

There are two agencies in the Panhandle that bring refugees into the area. One of them is Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle that takes in refugees from countries like Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and Burma.

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"When President Trump first took office, last year in January, one of his first executive orders was to ban refugees, from I believe seven countries at the time," said Catholic Charities Executive Director Jeff Gulde. "And that ban, although it was fought in the court system and delayed in certain areas, it did cause a dramatic decrease in refugee activity."

Last January, the president signed in the controversial order suspending all immigration and visa processes for seven majority Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Gulde says that has directly impacted the refugee take in here in the Panhandle

Amarillo use to hold the most refugees per capita of any city in Texas, but Gulde says he's not sure if that record still holds.

In 2017, the Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle took in 105 refugees, which was considered a low number at that time. As of this year, they've had five.

"As the courts were trying to figure out what to do with that executive order, the departments responsible for bringing refugees in were kinda at a stand still, waiting for directions for what to do," said Gulde.  "As the court system decided to get things going, then we're faced with government shutdowns, which also impede the process. So there was a litany of things that occurred to cause this big slowdown."

Alphonse Kayiranga came to the United States in 2004 as a refugee from Rwanda, where at the time, there was mass genocide. He hopes more refugees can come to America.

"To have the chance to come from a third country to the United States, it's a chance. It's a blessing," said Kayiranga.

The Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle tells me they will be receiving seven refugees next month.

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