Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘Amarillo’

Refuge placements to Amarillo restricted

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 23, 2014


Last fall the State Department restricted new refugee placements to Amarillo in fiscal year 2014 to family reunion cases after local government agencies reported being overloaded with newly resettled refugees and secondary migrants coming from other resettlement sites. Congressman Mac Thornberry brought State Department refugee resettlement office officials to Amarillo to meet with community leaders. Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle and Refugee Services of Texas are the local area resettlement agencies. They were asked three years ago to cut the number of resettled refugees (but apparently did not do so). Local government agencies complain that the schools was unable to handle the load of new refugee children, and that the City’s 911 emergency phone system was struggling to deal with the many languages spoken. Refugees – largely from Myanmar (Burma), but also from Iraq and Iran – have been migrating to the city for the $14 per hour meatpacking plant jobs, as well as to live near relatives. That “secondary migration” apparently continues, with the State Department only being able to cut the number of directly resettled refugees. An article in the Texas Tribune covers the story:

More international refugees were resettled in Texas in 2012 than in any other state, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. And one of the leading destinations is Amarillo, where members of Mr. Thawng’s church and other newcomers from places like Myanmar and Iraq often work in meatpacking plants.

Now local officials are worried that Amarillo’s refugee population is straining the city’s ability to respond to 911 callers who speak numerous languages and to help children learn English and adapt to a new culture.

We’ve raised some red flags and said this isn’t good for some entities in the city or for the refugees themselves,” said Mayor Paul Harpole.

Amarillo, the state’s 14th largest city, with 195,000 residents, receives a higher ratio of new refugees to the existing population than any other Texas city, according to 2007-12 State Department data from Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Clarendon. And the only Texas cities that receive a larger number of refugees than Amarillo (which received 480 in 2012) are also the state’s largest: Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.

But those numbers show only a refugee’s initial placement and do not account for secondary migration, Mr. Thornberry said. Many refugees who initially settle elsewhere relocate to Amarillo for jobs or to join family members.

The State Department decides how many refugees are resettled in an area, and states review those recommendations. Last fall, the department, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and refugee placement organizations agreed that for 2014, placements in Amarillo should be limited to family reunifications, Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the commission, said.

We cannot keep going at the rate we’ve been going,” Mr. Thornberry said… Read more here

An article at FOX KAMR has more:

…Over the last five calendar years, more than 2,700 refugees have resettled in Amarillo.  That represents roughly 1.3% of our current population…

Right now, the bulk of refugees coming to Amarillo are from Burma, followed by Iraq and Iran.

Refugees will always be welcome but, right now, the numbers are growing too quickly. Putting too many in one place and putting too much burden on the schools system or the police or fire, is not healthy for refugees or us.” Mayor Paul Hapole said.

There are two organizations that help refugees in the resettlement process:  Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle and Refugee Services of Texas.

They were both asked three years ago to reduce the number of refugees brought to Amarillo.  But, original resettlements are not the main problem.

Nancy Koons, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle said.  “In addition to that we see a lot of secondary refugees that settle in other cities then choose to move to Amarillo because they have family here, they like the weather or they know that there’s employment.”

Despite the efforts to reduce the number of refugees brought into Amarillo, the population is still growing too fast.  That’s why congressman Mac Thornberry brought the state department to Amarillo to meet with community leaders.

“One of the things I hope we can accomplish is helping the state department understand that we’re not just dealing with the people they bring to Amarillo.  But, it’s the relatives and the secondary migration that we’re also dealing with and they’ve also got to take that into account.”  Thornberry said… Read more here

Posted in Amarillo, Burma/Myanmar, Catholic Family Service, Amarillo, children, Iranian, Iraqi, meatpacking industry, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Office of Admissions, Refugee Services of Texas, Refugee Services of Texas, school for refugee children, schools, secondary migration, refugee | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Kansas bounty hunter wrongfully attacks former Lost Boy of Sudan in Amarillo

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 2, 2013


One of the former Lost Boys of Sudan now living in Amarillo, Texas has filed a negligence lawsuit against a Kansas bounty hunter claiming the man wrongfully targeted him and attacked without warning. Aguer Gak claims that Donald Ray Adams, without announcing his intentions or identifying himself as a bounty hunter, and without asking Gak his name or for any identification, Tased Gak, pepper sprayed him, Tased him again, and then shackled Gak in Amarillo on Nov. 17, 2012. Adams claimed he was searching for a bail jumper. In the state of Kansas becoming a licensed bounty hunter requires only completing a two-day course and paying $200. An article at has the details of the story:

An Amarillo man filed a negligence suit Wednesday against a Kansas bounty hunter, alleging the man wrongfully identified him as a bail jumper, Tasing and assaulting him in front of a north Amarillo motel last year.

The suit was filed in 320th District Court by Aguer Gak, a Sudanese immigrant who works at Tyson Fresh Meats, against Donald Ray Adams.

On Nov. 17, 2012, Adams, 66, approached Gak about 8:30 p.m. as Gak was talking on a cellphone near the Cowboy Motel, 3619. E. Amarillo Blvd., according to the suit and Amarillo police reports.

Without announcing his intentions or identifying himself as a bounty hunter, and without asking Gak his name or for any identification, Adams Tased Gak, then pepper sprayed him, then Tased him again, then shackled Gak,” the suit states. “The quick actions of an intervening Good Samaritan with a broom allowed Gak to escape Adams’ capture, with Gak fleeing for his life, still shackled with Adams’ restraints.”

During the melee, two other witnesses called 911 and one man told police the fracas sounded like someone was being killed…

One witness, Deng Awon Kon, told police Adams left in his pickup before police arrived. Kon said he followed Adams until he stopped near some police vehicles.

Adams, according to a police report, told officers Gak, 33, was a Kansas bail jumper he was attempting to apprehend, but one investigating officer determined Adams had attempted to capture the wrong man.

Officers said they later located Gak — who still was handcuffed and had two Taser probes buried in his arm — a few blocks from the motel. Officers transported him back to the motel, where he identified Adams as the man who attacked him, Amarillo police reports said.

A Potter County jury found Adams guilty of misdemeanor assault July 17, and a judge sentenced him to serve nine days in jail and ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine…

Gak’s Amarillo attorney, Vince Nowak, said he suffered injuries to his head and his arm during the incident… Read more here

Posted in Amarillo, police, safety, Sudanese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

With schools overloaded Catholic Family Service in Amarillo to limit resettlement to “family reunification cases”

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 11, 2012

Catholic Family Service in Amarillo has decided to reduce new refugee resettlement numbers by half due to concerns of overload from the local school district, according to an article in the Amarillo Globe-News. Resettlement will now be limited to “family reunification cases” – refugees who are resettling to be reunified with local family members. (The article also gives various confusing numbers for the amount of money the State Department gives for initial resettlement needs (intended as seed money). As of last year the amount was $1800 per refugee, with $700 available for resettlement agency overhead, $900 minimum to each refugee, and $200 that resettlement agencies may redirect to the neediest refugees at the agency. The $1800 was supposedly increased this year, but no numbers yet available.)

Catholic Family Service has lowered the number of new refugees it helps settle in Amarillo to help school officials better handle unique needs posed by refugee children and help the organization meet budget cuts.

Roughly 800 to 900 of the 1,100 refugee students enrolled in Amarillo schools had little to no formal schooling when they arrived in the U.S., and that has created a major learning block, said Kevin Phillips, executive director of student performance for the Palo Duro High School cluster…

…Catholic Family Service, a nonprofit organization, is one of two groups that receives federal funds to help newly arrived refugees settle in Amarillo. Executive Director Nancy Koons said the organization has decided to take in no more than 200 arrivals per year, down from 400 in previous years. Koons said the arrivals will be limited to “family reunification cases.”…

…Koons said [Amarillo Independent School District] principals and school nurses have expressed concerns about the challenges posed by refugee children.

It seems like we were creating needs by bringing in too many refugees,” she said… Read more here

Posted in Amarillo, Catholic, Catholic Family Service, Amarillo, children, funding, R&P, schools, Somali Bantu | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Van Rollover Kills Three Refugees From Amarillo On Way to Cargill Jobs

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 31, 2011

A Chevrolet passenger van carrying 15 Somali refugees from Amarillo in the Texas panhandle to their jobs at Cargill in Plainview rolled over today, killing three people. There are seven others in critical condition. The van, supposedly owned by one of the workers, struck debris on the road, swerved, overcorrected and rolled as many as five times. According to authorities neither those killed nor those critically hurt were wearing seat belts. An article in the Plainview Daily Herald reports on this tragic incident, the fourth van rollover this year in which refugees died or endured serious injuries:

Twelve of the 15 people in a van headed from Amarillo to Plainview to work at Cargill on Friday afternoon were ejected in a one-vehicle rollover two miles south of Canyon on Interstate 27.

Three of them died.

Department of Public Safety officials said Amar Ashur, Omar Abdi Qadir and Abdirizak Addulle Mohamed, 24, all of Amarillo, were killed in the accident that occurred when the Chevrolet van in which they were riding hit debris on the road, swerved, overcorrected and rolled as many as five times. The van, driven by 28-year-old Ibrahim M. Iden of Amarillo, came to rest on its roof…

…Neither those killed nor those critically hurt were wearing seat belts, authorities said…

…The van was carrying 15 Somali workers from their homes in and around Amarillo to work the second shift at Cargill…

…Catholic Family Service estimated about 1,000 Somalis lived in Amarillo in 2008 and expected about 400 refugees to come to the city this year, many of them fleeing military conflict.

The van apparently belonged to one of the occupants… Read more here

There was another van rollover on November 19 near Rushmore, Minnesota. Earlier this year there were van rollover accidents involving refugees in central Georgia (and here) and northern Georgia. A passenger van rollover in 2009 in Arizona killed six.

These vans are not safe when used for the intended purpose of carrying 15 passengers, due to instability caused by the raised center of gravity. Even 12-passenger vans are suspect.

***UPDATE*** January 3, 2012 — 3 still in critical condition, passanger van was a 2003 Chevrolet Express.

Posted in Amarillo, Catholic Family Service, Amarillo, meatpacking industry, passenger van roll-over, Somali | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


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