A man who took two co-workers hostage at an Amarillo, Texas, Walmart Tuesday was a refugee who immigrated from Iran in 2003, and that fact came as no surprise to those who track the federal government’s robust refugee resettlement program.
Amarillo is bursting at the seams with foreign refugees, from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and its mayor has pleaded repeatedly with the government to stop sending refugees to his city.
But they keep coming.
The schools are stretched, and the local police department is having a hard time getting a handle on the rising crime.
On Tuesday, it was just another example. Mohammad Moghaddan, an Iranian refugee who became an American citizen in 2010, was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies after he had taken two Walmart employees hostage. Early reports identified him as a Muslim, but was of the Bahai faith.
Moghaddan, 54, was a current employee of the store, and his actions were quickly declared “a case of work place violence” by the sheriff’s office. The hostage taker, armed with a handgun, was shot dead by a SWAT team as terrified shoppers were ushered out of the store.
The city’s mayor has been on a crusade since 2011 to get the U.S. State Department, working with the United Nations, to put a damper on the number of refugees flooding into his city.
So far, Mayor Paul Harpole has had little success.
Whether Tuesday’s event was terrorism or “workplace violence,” Amarillo, a city of 240,000, has had its share of crime. Adding to the problem is the fact that it has the highest per capita ratio of refugees of any city in the world, says Harpole.
“The City of Amarillo gets more refugees per 100,000 population than any city in the world,” Harpole testified April 21 before the state Senate’s Committee on Health and Human Services, which held a hearing on refugee resettlement.
He cited figures from per capita comparisons of other U.S. cities that suggest Amarillo should take in between 65 and 90 refugees a year. Instead, he said, “We get about 500 a year.”
The refugees are stretching the city’s ability to keep up with their needs.
Harpole said Amarillo is building “ghettos” in which bands of refugees from certain countries congregate and even claim to elect their own separate political leaders.
“We create small ghettos,” Harpole told Watchdog.org. “A group of Somalis came in to say they had elected a mayor of their community. Then another faction claimed they had their own leader. We come to find out that rival tribes – slaves and masters – were being settled together.”
Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle has been the main resettlement contractor in Amarillo for years. It agreed in 2011 to bring in 35 to 40 percent fewer refugees after the city leaders complained, but the U.S. State Department was not to be deterred. It simply picked up a second contractor to fill in the gap, said Ann Cocoran, author of the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog.
That second contractor is Amarillo’s Refugee Services of Texas office, which works through Church World Services and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.
Corcoran says many of the refugees the State Department and its contractors send to Amarillo are placed in jobs in area meatpacking plants. Food giant Cargill is one of the biggest employers in the area.
“Like so many meatpacking towns in America, federal refugee resettlement contractors got a foot hold there years ago, mostly working as ‘head hunters’ for the meatpacking industry, and have continued to pour Third-Worlders into Amarillo despite pleas by elected officials to stop,” Corcoran said.
The bottom line is to keep wages down, and this is why Republicans in Congress typically go along with the Democrats in supporting the refugee program. Even as they talked tough against Syrian refugees late last year, they voted by majority to fully fund President Obama’s expanded refugee program in the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill.
“Refugee resettlement is not about ‘humanitarianism’! It is about globalists and greedy industries wanting to improve their bottom lines – the social and economic condition of your towns and cities be damned,” Corcoran wrote in a recent blog.
Flooding in from the Middle East
Not only does Amarillo have the highest ratio of refugees in the world, according to Harpole’s testimony before the Legislature, but it has the highest ratio of Middle Eastern refugees of any city in America.
Amarillo has become home to more than 1,000 Mideast migrants.
When you take into consideration Muslim migrants from outside the Middle East, it’s much more.
According to the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center database, a total of 4,892 refugees have arrived since 2002 from the following countries, all of which have strong Muslim refugee populations.
Refugees sent to Amarillo from Muslim strongholds since 2002:
- Afghanistan: 39
- Bosnia: 11
- Burma: 2,923
- Burundi: 97
- Eritrea: 72
- Iran: 674
- Iraq: 393
- Somalia: 584
- Sudan: 99
- Iran 674
William Sumerford, a taxpayer activist in Amarillo, told Watchdog.org that local services are being stretched by refugees. Police say crime is a chronic problem in the resettlement enclaves. The city currently fields 9-1-1 calls in 42 different languages.
“Hospitals, welfare, police, you name it, are strained. That all comes back on our city budget,” Sumerford told Watchdog.org.
Amarillo’s school system is particularly vulnerable.
“Our education system is overloaded with kids who can’t speak English,” Sumerford told Watchdog.org.
More than 15 languages are spoken in the Amarillo school system, and when you include the different dialects, the number balloons to 75, according to Harpole’s testimony before the state Legislature.
“We have 660 (refugee) kids who don’t speak English, and the U.S. Department of Education says they have to be at grade level within one year. It’s a ludicrous requirement – they don’t even know how to use the bathroom,” Harpole told Watchdog.org, adding that Washington pays schools only $100 per refugee student per year.
The Amarillo City Commission has been considering a plan to halt further refugee settlements, but so far no city or state has been successful in ending a federal resettlement program once it gets started. The state of Texas is suing the federal government, seeking a stronger role in the resettlement process, as is the state of Alabama. But Tennessee has the strongest legal case against the feds, suing them on 10th Amendment grounds alleging the program is a violation of state sovereignty.
Harpole told Watchdog.org he isn’t optimistic about the city’s authority to push back.
“We’ve been a giving community, and it’s a huge disservice to bring in refugees in numbers that we’re not able to handle.
“Federal law requires the Obama administration to work with Texas in the refugee resettling process,” Katherine Wise, spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, told Watchdog.org. “The response by the Obama administration makes it clear that it has no intention of cooperating with us.”
The most active congressman to stand against the refugee resettlement program is Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, who represents the Houston area.
He introduced a bill last summer that would halt the arrival of all refugees until a full audit of the program’s costs and risks to national security can be completed.
The GOP-controlled House under Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., ignored Babin’s bill, even though it garnered 80 co-sponsors, and fully funded President Obama’s expanded refugee program.
Ryan has also argued against Donald Trump’s plan to put a temporary pause on all Muslim immigration.
The U.S. is scheduled to bring in 85,000 foreign refugees this year and 100,000 in fiscal 2017 – with about half of them coming from Muslim-dominated countries.
But the full picture of Muslim immigration is much more troublesome. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and other sources, the U.S. issues about 120,000 green cards every year to persons from Muslim countries. If temporary visas are includes, such as those issued to college students and guest workers, the number balloons to more than 240,000 per year.
Refugees, however, are the most entitled of all immigrants. They qualify for all federal welfare benefits on day one of their arrival and are granted green-card status within a year. They can qualify for full citizenship, including voting rights, within five years.
According to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, 91 percent of refugees from the Middle East receive food stamps and 74 percent are on Medicaid.