Fort Worth

Texas leading nation in number of refugees resettled

Syrian refugees aboard a dinghy arrived at the Greek northeastern island of Lesbos in February.
Syrian refugees aboard a dinghy arrived at the Greek northeastern island of Lesbos in February. AP

Even as Texas sues the federal government over the vetting process for refugees, the state resettled 2,677 — more than any other state — between October and March, according to State Department data.

Local refugee numbers provided by the state indicate that 416 refugees have arrived in Fort Worth so far this fiscal year — the third highest resettlement city in Texas. Tarrant County usually ranks among the top three counties in Texas in number of resettled refugees.

Houston received 710 refugees while Dallas resettled 695 so far this fiscal year, according to data provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services. The fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

The state’s total tally is slightly higher than the federal government’s — 2,708 — because it includes refugees who migrated from other states after initial resettlement and accessed health services at a refugee health clinic in Texas.

Most of the refugees who came to Texas from October to March are from Myanmar, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. Eighty-two Syrians came to Texas, of 1,285 Syrians who have arrived in the United States so far this fiscal year. The State Department snapshot doesn’t include asylees — victims of trafficking who also can access state refugee services.

After the November terrorist attacks in Paris, believed to have possibly been planned in Syria, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered that no Syrian refugees be allowed in the state. Millions have fled their homes since civil war broke out in March 2011.

In support of Abbott’s order, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission filed a lawsuit against the federal government and the International Rescue Committee, a resettlement agency. That case is pending in federal court in Dallas.

Efforts to block Syrians from resettling here have been rejected by U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey of the Northern District of Texas.

Despite the lawsuit and anti-refugee rhetoric, many refugees feel comfortable in Texas, said Anne Marie Weiss-Armush, president of DFW International, a network of internationally focused groups in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Mohamad, a Syrian refugee, tells why, and how, he and his wife and their four children found their way to the United States. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)

“Refugees have not felt unwelcome at the grassroots level,” Weiss-Armush said, adding that many people have reached out to help refugees moving to North Texas. Recent efforts focused on helping families pay rising apartment rents, fitting youngsters for shoes and providing families with donations.

The refugee issue has also been part of the presidential campaigns. Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz called for blocking Muslims from entering the U.S.

President Barack Obama hasn’t wavered from plans to resettle 10,000 Syrians by Sept. 30.

“Our goal is to continue to try to make the case to Congress and the American people [that] this is the right thing to do and we believe that we can hit those marks before the end of the year,” Obama said in a Reuters report.

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1

Snapshot: By the numbers

85,000 refugees is the number President Barack Obama wants admitted by Sept. 30.

10,000 Syrians are projected to be admitted this fiscal year.

29,055 refugees were admitted to the United States between Oct. 1, 2015 and March 31.

2,677 refugees have been resettled in Texas between Oct. 1 and March 31.

905 refugees from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, have arrived in Texas between Oct. 1 and March 31.

578 refugees have come from Iraq to Texas so far this fiscal year.

338 refugees have come from the Democratic Republic of Congo during that time period.

276 refugees have come to Texas from Somalia.

82 refugees have come to Texas from Syria so far this fiscal year.