Two organizations in Austin will host Syrian refugees

A Syrian refugee man carrying his daughter rushes to the beach as he arrives on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, Sunday, Oct. 4 , 2015. The U.N. refugee agency is reporting a “noticeable drop” this week in arrivals of refugees by sea into Greece - as the total figure for the year nears the 400,000 mark. Overall, the UNHCR estimates 396,500 people have entered Greece via the Mediterranean this year with seventy percent of them are from war-torn Syria. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL/KXAN) – After American officials agreed to accept tens of thousands of refugees escaping war-torn Syria, the debate is spilling over onto the presidential campaign trail about how many refugees should be allowed to make their new home in the United States.

“This country has a very good history of accepting ordinary people and letting them do extra-ordinary things,” said Eskinder Negash, senior Vice President of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

USCRI is one of nine agencies designated by the State Department to help assist refugees in acclimating to life in the United States. The non-profit organization, which is setup across several U.S. cities, is responsible for bringing refugees into an arranged living environment complete with housing assistance, job placement and educational support.

GOING IN-DEPTH// Travis Co. Refugees

FY2014: 1,517 arrivals

FY2013: 1,387 arrivals

Where they were coming from FY2014:

  • Iraq: 35%
  • Cuba: 29%
  • Afghanistan: 8%
  • Burma: 8%
  • Iran: 4%
  • Bhutan: 4%
  • Somalia: 3%
  • Eritrea: 2%
  • Nepal: 2%
  • Sudan: 1%
  • Ethiopia: 1%
  • Other: 3%

Source: Texas Department of State Health Services

Click here to see the full list of cities selected to host refugees and provide assistance. In Austin, there are two organizations slated to assist with refugees: Refugees Services of Texas and Caritas of Austin. Houston has five organizations available to assist, the most out of any city in Texas. The organizations assist with things such as: initial reception, housing, health screening appointments, employment services and basic household supplies and food.

The Refugee Services of Texas (RST) says they’ve already helped resettle 18 Syrian refugees and they expect Central Texas to take in about 100-150 refugees in the next year. “The arrival pipeline is still very slow as the U.S. government works to improve the process. Best guess is that we would start to see the pace of Syrian arrivals increase by spring 2016,” explains a spokesperson for RST.

“We have no information at this point about if and when we would be resettling Syrian refugees. In recent years, Caritas of Austin has settled 500-600 refugees annually who come from 20+ different countries,” says Lindsey Dickson, spokesperson for Caritas in a statement.

The State Department estimates refugees often wait 18 to 24 months to learn if and where they’ll be allowed to re-settle in the United States. Those seeking refugee status are required to pass several background checks, medical checks and have no guarantee of acceptance after applying.

“They’ve got nothing left, because everything they have has been destroyed in Syria,” said Daryl Grisgraber, a senior advocate of Refugees International when asked to describe conditions refugees are facing overseas.

In recent weeks, several European nations have gone to extreme measures to secure their borders to stop the influx of refugees. Migration experts strongly disagree with the possibility of terrorists posing as refugees to enter the United States legally. Some critics have also publically speculated too many refugees in one city could create larger problems.

“Now, we resettle refugees all across the U.S., and we don’t pick a city to be the new capital of – Little Damascus or something,” said Anne Richard, assistant secretary of Bureau of Refugees and Migration during a press briefing in New York.

An expected 1,700 refugees will be living in the United States before the end of 2015 and another 10,000 are expected in 2016.

Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz called the administration’s plan to accept refugees from war-torn Syria “nothing short of crazy,” because he believes some are Islamic State terrorists.

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