THE LIVING ROOM – The couch can easily hold two, three if they squeeze. Put a mattress in the bathtub and pup tents in the backyard. This is because I am getting ready to receive some refugees, and you should get ready, too. Yes, once again America is set to host newcomers, this time from Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, and possibly Oklahoma. We see on TV the literally millions of refugees pouring out of the Middle East, staggering through Turkey, Greece, Serbia, then to Germany and eventually, of course, to Texas. This is traditional. Give us your poor, your tired, your chefs and baseball players. Some 75,000 refugees have arrived in Houston in the last 35 years. Houston has been the Number 1 city for refugees in the past two years. And among the states, Texas is also Numero Uno in receiving refugees the past two years.
Follow me as we whittle down these numbers. According to U.N. data, between 2010 and 2014 – before this latest deluge — the U.S. alone resettled 71 percent of all refugees. Out of every 1,000 refugees resettled by the U.N. around the world, more than 700 came to America. All 50 states received some, and 75 of those 700 will end up in Texas, according to U.S. State Department numbers.
More of those will come to the Houston area than to anywhere else in Texas: The state health services department reports that nearly 40 percent of Texas’ refugees land in Harris County. This means that Harris County alone welcomes roughly 30 of every 1,000 refugees that the U.N. resettles anywhere in the entire world. According to the Houston Chronicle: “This is more than any other American city, and more than most other nations. If Houston were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for refugee resettlement.”
But wait. That number might increase. President Barack Obama has said that the U.S. would take at least 10,000 Syrians displaced by their war. That’s five times the 2,000 the U.S. accepted this year. Wait again: Now the U.S. says it will accept 85,000 refugees from around the world next year, and that total would rise to 100,000 in 2017. Most of the additional refugees would be Syrian. Others would come from strife-torn areas of Africa. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Harris County received refugees from 40 different countries in fiscal year 2014. The Houston ISD reports its students speak some 94 different languages.
These newcomers are in addition to the flood of others making an end run around the established immigration quotas. We’ve long had an express lane for Cubans. Then there were the Vietnamese. By 1981, Houston had the largest Vietnamese population outside of California. In 1990 there were 31,056 ethnic Vietnamese in Harris County. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the figure was 80,409. Next came refugees from our latest foreign adventures. Apparently half the population in Iraq served as interpreters for U.S. forces there, and now face retribution from Al-Quida. This group wants to get to the head of the line for resettlement in the U.S. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, it seems every other male over 15 worked for the U.S, and fears etc. etc.
It is estimated that 250,000 Katrinians fled to Texas, mostly to the Houston area. Today, 10 years later, 40,000 of them are still here. Immigrants from south of the border have always come — and stayed. But Texas holds a particularly warm spot for youngsters from ravaged lands. They have fled the gangs, the drug lords, extortion, the midnight shootings and kidnappings. to ford the river and arrive in Texas. I wouldn’t want to live in Chicago, either. Youngsters also pour in from Central America, and of the estimated 58,000 who came to the U.S. last year, 40 percent arrived in Texas. They have been duly handled by ICE, appeared before a judge who told them to come back at a certain date to be told their fate. Thus far 80 percent have never been seen again. Today one out of every four residents in Harris Count is foreign born – and I don’t mean Californians.
“We have too many immigrants,” as Marco Rubio told Ted Cruz. Yes, the U.S. has the most generous immigration quotas on earth. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2013 the U.S. immigrant population stood at more than 41.3 million, or 13 percent, of the total U.S. population of 316.1 million. Between 2012 and 2013, the foreign-born population increased by about 523,000, or 1.3 percent. U.S. immigrants and their U.S.-born children – aka anchor babies — now number approximately 80 million persons, or one-quarter of the overall U.S. population. This figure includes the legals, the illegals and the ubiquitous “political asylum” seekers who now include victims of spousal abuse.
Incidentally, how many refugees from this latest group have been accepted by the Muslim states besides Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon or Israel? None, or nada as we say in Walmart. Still, some like to get here a bit faster, they simply wade across the Rio. Also, ICE estimates – good luck – of the 11-million illegal immigrants in this country, fully one-third arrived here perfectly legally, as tourists, or on student or temporary work visas. Then they just disappeared.
This enormous influx of permanent visitors has caused changes in Texas’ demographics. Now we have Mex-Tex restaurants, and schools teach EOPL — English as Other Peoples Language. We have Ethiopians to do the jobs Guatemalans won’t do. Our newcomers say, “As-salamu alaykum.” Peace be with you. We answer: “Take off your thobe and slowly back away,” because some fear that these new Texans, mostly of the Syrian persuasion, may include Al-Quida or ISIS terrorists. We should ask them when they arrive, “Have you ever been a suicide bomber? Are these hand grenades in your suitcase? Obviously they aren’t cans of deodorant. Complete this sentence: Death to _______. That’s close enough. Come on in. As-salamu alaykum.”
Ashby migrates at email@example.com