Amarillo isn’t the center of a major metropolitan area. It’s considered a mid-sized city, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
However, the city has at least one big-city issue with which it must contend.
The Texas Tribune has published an interesting article profiling the city’s attraction to people who come here from far away.
It notes the strain that the influx of refugees is putting on the region’s delivery of services.
U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry says the rate of immigration into the Panhandle “cannot continue.” How, or whether, to stop it presents a serious quandary for local officials, according to the Tribune.
“We’ve raised some red flags and said this isn’t good for some entities in the city or for the refugees themselves,” Mayor Paul Harpole told the Tribune.
One issue appears unique to Amarillo, according to Thornberry. It is that refugees are migrating to other places in Texas, but are being attracted to Amarillo as a secondary destination; they come here to find work or to live near family members, Thornberry said.
The migrations puts strains on the city’s ability to provide affordable housing for these newcomers. It also strains local school districts’ ability to educate the children who come here with their parents.
The immediate Amarillo area contains five independent school districts, each of which must provide public education for these children. You know what that means, yes? Many of those children do not speak English when they arrive. They speak literally dozens of different languages or dialects and teachers and school administrators must be able to communicate with them.
Is it a burden? Yes, said Thornberry. “You look at the burden you’re placing on the school system not only to meet the testing requirements but to help integrate these kids into modern American life,” he said.
Amarillo, we have some things to work out.
One of the solutions shouldn’t be to close our doors to those seeking a better life. Harpole noted Amarillo’s long tradition of welcoming refugees won’t change. The city is home to a large faith-based community that already is reaching out to refugees and other immigrants. That outreach should continue.
However, too much of anything can become a detriment, the mayor said.
“We’ve been very accepting. But we also need to keep it in a ratio that’s healthy for the refugees as well as the residents,” Harpole said.
It is good to know, at least, that Amarillo remains a desirable destination for those seeking to carve out a place in the Land of Opportunity.