Texas has become the top destination for refugee resettlement, with Dallas the second largest hub, according to recent statistics. It became the main destination for resettlement as of last year, rising from number five in 2001.
In an article earlier this week, the Houston Chronicle reported that Texas' rise in the refugee rankings may be the result of word of mouth among refugees.
Caitriona Lyons, the coordinator of the state's Refugee Resettlement Program, told the Chronicle that Texas' relatively strong economy likely is helping swell the numbers of refugees.
International Rescue Committee in Dallas is one of a handful of non-profits that helps to resettle people in the area. Executive Director Debi Wheeler agreed with Lyons' assessment, adding "I think that the economy is a factor [of why refugees come to Texas], but I think with the refugees, sometimes they're also joining relatives that are in the U.S. I think affordable housing in Texas is another draw." But she points out that settlement cities for those without relatives are determined by the State Department, according what certain cities can accomodate based on services and housing.
The vast majority of refugees come from Burma, Bhutan and Iraq, which is reflected in the refugee population of Dallas. Those cultures will be on full display next week for World Refugee Day. On June 20 at Fair Oaks Park, Catholic Charities is hosting a day of Iraqi, Bhutanese and Burmese dance, music from South Sudan, an Ethiopian coffee ceremony and a West African Hair Braiding presentation -- complete with food from around the world.
A brief drive through the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, on either side of Park Lane, just east of Interstate 75, is a peek at the range of people from dozens of countries for whom Dallas has only recently become home. It's not uncommon there for an Iraqi who worked as a translator for the American military to brush shoulders with a Burmese family who spent the last decade in a refugee camp.
More than 56,000 refugees unable to return to their home countries because of persecution resettled in the United States last year. Dallas County was the second (to Harris County) most populous area of the state for resettlement, according to State Department statistics.