Lynn Ashby

Dear Afghan Refugees, welcome to Houston. One hundred of you have already arrived and we expect 3,000 more between now and the end of next March.

That is more than triple the total number of refugees, from all countries, resettled in the state of Texas in 2020. All told, an estimated 50,000 are headed to cities nationwide.

No doubt you are confused and slightly frightened, but don’t worry because in these very words you will find advice, comfort and directions to the nearest Starbucks.

First, you don’t have to learn our language. Call any restaurant for a pickup dinner or ask the nail lady for a pedicure and you’ll know what I mean.

For the valet parker or the Uber driver, English is not their second language or their fifth. Houstonians speak at least 145 languages at home. More than a third of Houston residents who are older than 5 speak a language other than English at home. More than 19,700 speak Yoruba (Nigeria) but only 445 people speak Afrikaans (South Africa). Slightly more people, 460, speak Danish. Just 60 people speak Slovak, so you are in good company.

This language problem should not be trouble for half of you who claim to have been translators for American troops, although listening to some on TV, I think you need someone to translate your translations.

You should learn our rules of the road. Never, ever use your directional signals. That’s a dead giveaway that you are new in town. Don’t honk.

Thanks to a new law passed by our brilliant Texas Legislature, every Texan is now required to be armed. Speaking of which, buy a gun. If you have packed an M109 howitzer from home, all the better. But learn our state’s motto: Shoot Friendly.

You can park in a handicapped slot. Everyone does. Put a bumper sticker on your car like “I Brake For Evacuation Planes” but not “I’d Rather Be Goat-Herding.” And don’t bother buying car insurance. If you get in a wreck, claim diplomatic immunity.

Some handy terms to learn: “God bless Texas.” “I hate the Cowboys.”

This is a tough-on-crime state, particularly on drugs, hence the slogan: “Don’t Meth With Texas.”

While driving through College Station, do not yell, “Hook ‘Em, Horns!”

You can adopt a highway, but don’t list it as a dependent on your taxes.

Roe v. Wade is not a debate about how to cross the Rio Grande. The title “infidel” should only be used when describing the driver of the pickup truck that cuts you off.

Attention new female arrivals: Our legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott have recently enacted new laws which will greatly change your life. They know best.

As one legislator noted to an irate constituent: “Don’t you worry yur purty little head about that.”

New laws still allow you to drive a car, but you must first get your husband’s permission. The newest Nieman’s catalogue will feature the fall burka collection noting: “Black is back.” You really don’t need to bother with makeup since no one can see your face. Our lawmakers want you to feel at home.

You are called “parolees,” as opposed to Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders. (An additional 100 to 200 of them will come to Houston in September.) But don’t use that title around town. “Parolee” means something entirely different to most folks.

You have been promised work authorization, but that permit can take from 8 to 10 months to receive. This process is handled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. For faster action, you might try FEMA.

If you are looking for good – or maybe bad – Afghan food, Houston has seven Afghan restaurants. Or maybe you’d like to start out working at one in the kitchen.

Learn Spanish. This brings us to our current immigration problem. Our former and perhaps future president, Donald Trump, does not like immigrants, except for his wives.

He put up part of a wall along the Rio Grande, which should keep out part of the illegal flow of illegal immigrants. Actually, if nothing else works for your staying here, just ask for asylum or claim you were brought here as a child and apply for DACA protection.

More tips on how to blend in: Texas welcomes all Christian religions, although practicing your Muslim style allows people to go around asking, “Who was that mosque man?”

If you get a job and need to pray five times at work, tell your boss they are your yoga breaks. When looking for a house, beware of any real estate agent who uses a glass bottom boat. Avoid any gated neighborhood that has a sign reading: “Texas Department of Corrections.”

To be sure, there are those who do not welcome you. Tucker Carlson said on his show, “Nobody seems to pause and ask why young Americans can’t afford to get married and have children, afford to buy homes and cars and their solution, the elite’s solution, is we’ll just bring in new people. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided.”

And in 2015 our own Gov. Abbott sent a letter to President Barack Obama informing him that the State of Texas would not accept any refugees from Syria. Furthermore, Abbott implored Obama to halt his plans to accept more Syrian refugees in the U.S.

Our Governor is losing the battle: 2,662: average number of refugees resettled in Houston per year in 2016 and 2017.

According to data from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Texas received more refugees than any other state between 2010 and 2019 with nearly 57,000 recorded arrivals.

Among cities with the highest number of refugee resettlements across the country were Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and their surrounding areas.

So, new Texans, welcome to America’s most diverse city. The nearest Starbucks is probably next door.

Ashby diversifies at ashyb2@comcast.net

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