by Kaitlin Jackson
Ending refugee resettlement in Buffalo would be damaging to families, the recovering economy
Leaders of local immigration and resettlement organizations led the call this afternoon for Trump administration officials to reverse its apparent proposal to virtually shut down the refugee resettlement program in Fiscal Year 2020, at a time when the world faces its worst refugee crisis in history. A total of 1.4 million refugees are in need of resettlement globally and 40,000 of those already are approved for resettlement in the United States.
Representatives of the New York Immigration Coalition and the Western New York Refugee and Asylee Coalition (composed of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, International Institute of Buffalo, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County, and Journey’s End Refugee Services) spoke to the many concerns for refugees, our Buffalo community, and our world if the program is stopped. Also joining the leaders in speaking out against a decimation of the refugee program were resettled refugees awaiting other family members to be resettled, and other community, business and faith leaders, as well as elected officials.
A report yesterday indicated that some Trump officials propose setting a cap at zero for next year while other officials recommend between 3,000 and 10,000 refugee admissions. While the historic average for the U.S. resettlement program is 95,000 admissions each year, the President cut the number to 45,000 in FY 2018. Despite capacity and the bipartisan program’s 40-year legacy of resettling a total of nearly 3 million refugees since 1980, the President again cut the program in FY 2019 to one-third, or 30,000. Since 2016, the program has been reduced by 80%. The potential plan to reduce the influx of vetted refugees to critical levels was reported last night (July 18) at politico.com.
Resettlement and immigration leaders indicated that, as of July 2, a total of 8,819 refugees are approved to travel to the United States and another 29,362 refugees have passed their United States Citizenship and Immigration Services interview. In addition to those waiting to enter the United States from this group, many families settled in Buffalo and cities across the country are awaiting those family members to join them. Finally, leaders spoke of the impact on the community of Buffalo, which has benefited from the influx of refugees in recent years, contributing significantly to the area’s economic recovery and revitalization of the city’s West Side.
Among the comments shared Friday afternoon included:
Dennis C. Walczyk, Catholic Charities of Buffalo President and CEO
“We are deeply opposed to a closure of the refugee resettlement program. Not only is it ethically and morally wrong to turn away refugees who are in dire need of safety and stability, it’s also contradictory to how our country – and city – have historically operated. We have always been, and continue to be, a stronger, more vibrant community when we stand shoulder to shoulder with our refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters. We must demand better for our country, our city and for those whose lives depend on it.”
Eva Hassett, International Institute Executive Director
“Buffalos’ future, as our past, depends mightily on how well we welcome and support immigrants and refugees. We know from our own family stories what hate looks like. We also know it’s wrong. Refugees are workers, business owners, STEM students, homeowners, neighbors. Keeping refugees and immigrants out of our country harms us all, economically and in terms of our humanity. Inclusion and tolerance are the best business model. We know better and we need to be better.”
Anna Ireland Mongo, Jericho Road Community Health Center Chief Programs Officer
“We welcome refugees in our community and our country. Closing the resettlement program in the United States would be devastating to individuals, families, communities and the country.”
Molly Carr, Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County President and Chief Executive Officer
“The US Refugee Admissions Program streghthens our communities and our national security. By reducing admissions to zero we not only harm the refugees who will continue to waste away in camps, we also work against our own best interest as a country.”
Karen M. Andolina Scott, Journey’s End Refugee Services, Inc Executive Director
“Buffalo and cities like it have benefited greatly from refugees and other immigrants setting down roots, revitalizing our neighborhoods, and contributing to our local economies and dynamic cultural scenes. If welcoming those most in need, through programs like the US Refugee Admissions Program, is part of who you believe we are as Americans, it’s time to unite and prove it.”