At this stage in the city’s renaissance game, we should know how much refugees have contributed to the rebirth of Buffalo. The cultural landscape of the West Side has changed for the better, and we’ve even been seeing some positive strides on the East Side. So it’s tough to hear that the current presidential administration is capping the refugee resettlement ceiling at 18,000 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, down from its height of 110,000 (end of 2016, start of 2017). This is also the smallest number of refugees granted asylum in the US since the U.S. resettlement program was established nearly 40 years ago, according to Buffalo Refugee Advocacy Groups (WNYRAC).
Funding for agencies that assist refugees is linked to the number of newly-arriving refugees. Cuts to Refugee Resettlement result in direct financial losses for agencies that resettle and assist refugees.
What is especially troubling is that worldwide, the number of refugees is growing. Recent reports show that there are over 70.8 million people who are displaced, 25.9 million of whom are refugees. In Buffalo, we have not only been able to accommodate a growing number of refugees in the past, these refugees have contributed to the cultural growth of the city.
Refugees and immigrants are a critical part of Buffalo’s past, present and future.
New York State Assembly Member Sean Ryan said, “Refugees and immigrants are a critical part of Buffalo’s past, present and future. New York State and Buffalo play a big role in U.S. refugee resettlement: New York resettles the 3rd largest number of refugees in the country, and Buffalo resettles the largest number in the state. My Assembly District, specifically the West Side of Buffalo, is evidence of the richness, diversity and energy refugees and immigrants bring to the communities they settle in. The administration’s decision is a major threat to the economic and cultural vitality of Buffalo and the rest of the country.”
Eva Hassett, Executive Director of the International Institute of Buffalo adds “Across the state, and especially in Buffalo, refugees have stabilized cities and made large contributions to our economy and communities. Refugees make our region economically stronger and culturally richer. Employers find good employees. K-12 schools, and colleges and universities, find excellent students. Refugees and immigrants are entrepreneurs and have started a significant number of businesses of all sizes. Neighborhoods are revitalized and vibrant. Buffalo, the City of Good Neighbors, has enormous capacity to help welcome and help refugees. We are ready, willing and able, and we do not want to stop.”
“Our communities have been and will continue to be enriched and strengthened by refugees” adds Molly Carr, Executive Director of Jewish Family Services. “The Jewish community understands what it is like to leave ones home and resettle in a foreign land. We are deeply unsettled by this decision to reduce admissions to just 18,000. This historical low will not come without consequences. Refugee resettlement is not only a program of both humanitarian and strategic importance; resettlement plays a tremendous role in building and maintaining vibrant communities, as we see here in Buffalo.”
The United States has been an example to the world, leading the effort to resettle refugees.
“The United States has been an example to the world, leading the effort to resettle refugees. Unfortunately, this decision not only decreases the number of refugees allowed into the country, but it erodes the infrastructure set in place to assist refugees to the point of destruction, affecting the ability of agencies to respond quickly to higher numbers in the future” warns Anna Ireland, Chief Programs Officer at Jericho Road Community Health Center.
Karen Andolina Scott, Executive Director of Journey’s End Refugee Services adds “We stand with our refugee communities already here deprived of the services and programs that would speed up their successful integration into our communities, and who remain separated from their loved ones. Most of all, our hearts go out to the over 26 million refugees in the world today desperately seeking shelter and safety for their families. We stand ready with our community supporters to serve as many as possible in the coming years.”
Dennis C. Walczyk, President and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, said, “We strongly oppose this historic reduction in the number of refugees that would be welcomed into our country next year. We call upon the Administration to consider the refugee resettlement program’s mission to provide protection to those in need for humanitarian reasons. The U.S. resettlement program is the largest in the world and we are proud and humbled to contribute to it through our decades of experience serving refugees and showing that our nation can be secure and compassionate in responding to vulnerable people. We will continue to lift up our refugee neighbors, advocate for higher arrival numbers, and work to make Buffalo and Western New York a more welcoming and united community.”