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Three Texas Mayors Talk About Refugee Resettlement

Lauren Silverman
From left, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Betsy Price of Fort Worth and Nelda Martinez of Corpus Christi speak about governing diverse, fast-growing cities at a luncheon hosted by the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Three Texas mayors came together in Addison Friday to discuss diversity, refugees, the economy and education at a luncheon hosted by the National Center for Policy Analysis.  

There was Nelda Martinez of Corpus Christi. As a young girl, she told her Catholic father she wanted to be the pope. 

There was Betsy Price of Fort Worth, who can still gut and clean a dear, but prefers long-distance cycling in spandex. 

And there was Beth Van Duyne of Irving, who's been in the spotlight for months, partly for the way her city handled Ahmed Mohamed, the Irving teen who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school that was mistaken for a bomb. 

Irving has been at the center of protests for and against Islam, especially since Van Duyne accused mosque leaders of creating separate laws for Muslims.

Earlier this year, she led an endorsement by Irving leaders of a state bill meant to forbid judges from using foreign laws in rulings. Some called the move anti-Islamic.

"Anybody who claims that is anti-anything says a lot more about them than City Council," Van Duyne said to the crowd. "We supported American laws in American courts. We supported fundamental human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the U.S. and Texas. We take an oath when we take office and we say we will defend and protect those rights."

Van Duyne said Irving isn’t being fairly represented in the media.

"We have the most diverse zip code in the country, we have people who get along, believe it or not," she said. "Don’t read the headlines.”

But the headlines were exactly what the audience wanted to talk about. The mayors were each asked their perspectives on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to sue the federal government over the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

Price said it's a difficult issue. 

“America has always taken in victims of war and in Texas we have too," Price said. "I think my position as mayor is we have to let them work it out and how it’ll come out I’m not sure.”

Van Duyne said she supports Abbott’s concerns about taking in new refugees.

"Whenever you have anybody come into your city, come into your country, come into your state, you need to know who they are," she said. 

Martinez of Corpus Christi says as the lawsuit plays out, city government is working with nonprofits to help assimilate immigrants who are already here.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.