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March 21, 2014

CHRON: Massimino, Guter: Human Rights First brings pro bono operation to Houston

In 2006, a woman and her three children fled from Iraq to Syria to escape persecution. When United Nations officials in Syria informed her that the U.S. government would resettle her in Houston, she was initially worried. "I told them, 'No, not Houston,' because I thought Texas had cowboys!" she said, recounting her conversation to the Muslim Matters website. But when she arrived in Houston in 2008, the refugee services organization Amaanah helped her find an apartment in a safe neighborhood, bought her food and furniture and helped her enroll in an English language class.

The woman and her children joined a growing refugee population in Houston. Thanks to Houston's generosity, Texas leads the nation in welcoming resettled refugees; about 6,000 arrived in 2012. Refugees have helped Houston become the country's most ethnically diverse city. People resettled in Houston face the struggles inherent to the refugee experience, but they find the city a generally hospitable place to build a new life. It's only fitting that Houston, a great American city, is making a core American ideal - providing refuge to the persecuted - a reality in the lives of people seeking freedom.

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