In North Texas, Varying Viewpoints On Refugees

Feb 8, 2016

Refugees have been in the headlines for months -- from Europe to Texas. More than 4 million Syrian refugees have fled the country since conflict began in 2011.

On Feb. 4, KERA's Krys Boyd sat down with Ryan Crocker, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria and Iraq; Texas State Sen. Don Huffines; and Jennifer Sime, senior vice president of U.S. programs for the International Rescue Committee. Together with a live studio audience, they discussed the impact of refugees - particularly from Syria - in North Texas. Catch up on the "Think" conversation with Tweets from our listeners.

As a U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker experienced firsthand what it was like living among the people who are now fleeing their homes. He said that these refugees are not different from Americans. “Syrians and Iraqis share some common traits. Before conflict swept through the two countries they were, broadly speaking, middle-class societies and societies that prized education," Crocker said.

"Neither Iraqis nor Syrians expatriate easily or readily," Crocker said. "They're attached to their countries. They hang on if they possibly can, and the fact that millions have fled the country is a pretty stark statement about how bad things actually are."

Ten thousand refugees are expected to come to the United States by fall 2016. Texas State Sen. Don Huffines said his main concern is the safety of U.S. and Texas citizens.

Huffines said Texas resettled about 8,000 refugees last year, 2,000 of them in Dallas. “This is about safety," Huffines said. "This about security of the United States. It’s about security of Dallas. It’s about security of Texas."

There was one thing that all panelists agreed on: religion shouldn't play a roll in refugee screening. "Religion should not be used as a criteria for refugees," Huffines said.

Jennifer Sime from the International Rescue Committee discouraged labeling refugees as "good" or "bad." "If we are going to have a true refugee resettlement program in this country, we have to accept refugees regardless of their country of origin, their religion, their ethnicity," Sime said. "We cannot start making distinctions between good refugees and bad refugees. It just doesn't work that way."

Listen to the podcast here.