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Refugees are Vital to Economic Growth in Upstate Cities that Need it Most Friday, July 19, 2019

Last night, Politico reported that some administration officials have proposed resettling zero refugees in Fiscal Year 2020. News that the Trump Administration is considering zeroing out refugee resettlement should be a jolt to New York’s political leadership. Bipartisan New York elected officials have shown support for the resettlement program as being both the right thing to do and good for New York.

Years of research by the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) shows that immigration and refugee resettlement make economic sense for New York State and the nation. Disrupting our ability to welcome newcomers ignores our history as a nation that has grown socially, culturally, and economically through immigration.

Statement from David Dyssegaard Kallick, Deputy Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute: “Our state has a long and proud history of refugee resettlement that makes local communities and economies stronger and richer. Refugee resettlement agencies and the people they help settle are playing an important role in the revitalization of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, and Albany[...] There is no possible justification for reneging on the country’s longstanding and bipartisan commitment to refugee resettlement. Refugee resettlement helps refugees, it helps American foreign policy, and in the process, it helps New York, too.”

Facts about refugee resettlement:

  • New York is the third most important state for refugee resettlement, after California and Texas.
  • Three of New York’s upstate metro areas are in the top 50 metro areas in the country for refugee resettlement: Buffalo (#13), Syracuse (#20), and Rochester (#32).
  • A major study of Somali, Burmese, Hmong, and Bosnian refugee communities found that over the long run they learn English, become homeowners, rise in a career ladder, and start businesses.
  • Median wage for refugees in these groups increased from about $20,000 for recent arrivals to about $40,000 for those who have been here for more than 10 years.
  • Employers have had great success with hiring refugees. Turnover rates are typically half or more the rate for workers overall, according to a study by FPI with the Tent Partnership for Refugees, and helped their overall recruitment.
  • Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature have recognized the importance of refugee resettlement with a $2 million annual investment in the state’s unique program of enhanced services to refugees. The program has been crucial to helping support resettlement efforts and anchor institutions in our communities.

Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) is working behind the scenes with resettlement champions on the hill advocating for a normal Presidential Determination on Refugee Resettlement. Bill Canny, RCUSA Chair, and Executive Director for the Migration and Refugee Services of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states: “…reports of further reducing the refugee goal to zero make no sense at all. There continue to be refugees who need the protection that resettlement provides, including refugees who are fleeing religious persecution. Faith based communities and volunteers across the U.S. have the desire, capacity, and resources to return to at least our historically normal level of welcoming refugees.”

Rochester has a long and successful history welcoming and resettling refugees into our community. As the sponsoring agency for all refugees resettled in Rochester, Catholic Family Center knows refugees to be innocent individuals, families and children who have faced the worst of the world’s violence and depravity to persevere through an intensive vetting process in order to get to the United States.

Marlene Bessette, President and CEO of CFC shares, “By abandoning its lead role, indeed any role, in refugee resettlement, the US would leave in harm’s way refugees who need resettlement, including Christians and others fleeing religious persecution, as well as Iraqis who helped the U.S. mission in Iraq. CFC and our partnering agencies have received dozens of phone calls from individuals offering to volunteer and asking what they can do to help. We are very grateful for this compassionate support but ask for your continued voice in opposition to the vilification of refugees.”

Those interested in adding their voice in support of refugee resettlement can do so in many ways. Stand up to xenophobic fearmongering when you hear it spoken in your neighborhood or workplace, call your state legislator or congressperson to tell them that you welcome refugees in your community or contact local refugee assistance providers and walk in kinship with refugees in need. To do these things is to truly honor our own first generation forebears and become the hand of welcome that so many of them never had.

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