Legislative Leaders Stand With Refugee Resettlement Agencies

Legislative Leaders Stand With Refugee Resettlement Agencies Thursday, February 28, 2019

Contact Information:

Assemblymembers Sean Ryan, Pat Fahy, and Marianne Buttenschon stood in the Capitol Building today with all fourteen of the refugee resettlement agencies in the New York State Enhanced Services to Refugees Program (NYSESRP), the Fiscal Policy Institute, and the New York Immigration Coalition to recognize the success of NYSESRP and to urge that it be funded at $4.5 million in this year’s budget. NYSESRP began in 2017, as a remarkable response to the federal government’s radical retreat from refugee resettlement. The program has been a huge success, and a beacon for other states around the country.

NYSESRP helps refugee resettlement agencies repurpose their staff and facilities to more fully serve refugees already in their communities, and to help attract others to areas that recognize refugees as contributors to population growth and economic revitalization. New York communities know that refugees are resilient, and they see how these agencies help refugees get on their feet and succeed. Refugees learn English, get jobs, start businesses, pay taxes, buy homes, and become citizens. Upstate New York cities have seen refugees stem population decline and in some cases tip the cities toward vital population growth. Over 90 percent of resettlement in New York is in upstate cities, but resettlement agencies play a key role downstate as well, helping not only refugees but also asylees and asylum seekers.

NYSESRP allows resettlement agencies to work with refugees beyond the 90-day period of initial resettlement funding, and is free of some restrictions attached to federal funding. The NYSESRP-funded agencies can do more to help integrate refugees into the community and the workplace, with positive impacts rippling out to employers, neighbors, schools, local businesses, and more.

Refugee Resettlement agencies are paid $1,000 by the federal government to provide services to new refugees. Between 2016 and 2018 the number of refugees settling in New York state has been reduced by 4,468, which has resulted in a funding shortfall of $4.5 million. NYSESRP has proven itself to be a boost to the refugees and the local economies that refugees call home. And it has helped preserve capacity at New York’s longstanding network of refugee resettlement agencies, so that we can be prepared for refugee resettlement in the future. In 2017, the Assembly led the way in initiating this program, and the final state budget has included funding of $2 million over each of the past two years. This year, a group of Assemblymembers are joined by Senators, together with all 14 resettlement agencies in the program, the Fiscal Policy Institute, and the New York Immigration Coalition in urging that the state budget include $4.5 million to ensure the continued success of this vibrant program.

Quotes from legislators:

Assemblymember Sean Ryan: “Two years ago, in the face of the federal government’s growing hostility toward refugees, the legislature stepped up to provide funding for refugee resettlement agencies through the New York State Enhanced Services to Refugees Program (NYSESRP). In so doing, the State acknowledged both the essential services that these organizations provide for refugees, asylees, and asylum-seekers and the positive cultural and economic contributions that these persons make in our communities. Simply put: At a time when some of the most vulnerable members of our communities were threatened, New York came through. At a time when the organizations that provide refugees essential support services faced devastating funding cuts, New York came through. And now, the time has come for the state to again prove itself a leader. Through NYSESRP, resettlement agencies have efficiently, compassionately, and tirelessly worked to help refugees; this work, in turn, empowers individuals and boosts local economies. The State’s resettlement agencies are facing funding shortfall of over $4 million. The legislature needs to not only continue support for NYSESRP, but expand it. Ethically and economically, it is the right thing to do.”

Assemblymember Pat Fahy: “The United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has helped protect and advance the rights of all immigrants throughout the nation since 1911. I commend USCRI's Albany, New York field office in particular for assisting in resettling hundreds of new Americans throughout New York State and helping them thrive. Funding will help advance USCRI's mission and support their highly qualified staff to ensure this crucial work continues long into the future.”

Assemblymember Marianne Buttenschon: “The refugee community in the Mohawk Valley is a supportive group that provides us with economic advantages as well as cultural and social positive impacts. They support our businesses, families, and the community as a whole.”

Assemblymember Pamela Hunter: Refugee resettlement agencies are essential for facilitating a smooth transition for immigrant refugees. By offering such services, refugees find the support systems they need to find stability, raise their families, and become a driving force in the Upstate economy. When refugees succeed, our communities succeed and it is now up to New York to ensure that these agencies are adequately funded.

Assemblymember William Magnarelli: “I am proud to join with my Upstate colleagues in advocating for the NYS Enhanced Services to Refugees Program. This important program has helped our NY Refugee Resettlement Agencies maintain vital services to new arrivals during a time of drastic federal cuts. It is vital that New York continues to fund these services to ensure refugee families have the resources they need to succeed in their new home.”

Assemblymember Karen McMahon: “Immigrants—many fleeing war, persecution and famine -- built Western New York. Whether it was the Irish or the Polish working in the steel mills and factories, their labor and traditions made our community great. Just like yesterday's immigrants, today's refugees are bringing new dynamism to the Western New York economy and it’s important our state continues to support these new settlers under New York State Enhanced Services to Refugees Program.”

Senator Neil Breslin: “Refugee resettlement programs provide critical supports that directly benefit refugees, communities and local economies. I support NYSESRP, the Fiscal Policy Institute, and the New York Immigration Coalition in ensuring NYSESRP is fully funded.”

Quotes from Refugee Resettlement Agencies and their Allies:

David Dyssegaard Kallick, Deputy Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute: “What a great response to the crisis created by the federal government. When so many others seem to be afraid of refugees, New York State government recognized how much refugees add to our culture and our economy, and how rewarding it is to give people who are fleeing persecution and violence a new home.”

Betsy Plum, Vice President of Policy for the New York Immigration Coalition: “NYSESRP has been a vital lifeline for our refugee-serving member organizations and partners over the last two years. We are facing an urgent crisis as the federal government continues to deeply cut refugee admissions and works tirelessly to tear apart the entire refugee support system from the inside out. Increasing NYSESRP to $4.5 million turns that around. It’s good for refugees, and it’s good for the state they now call home.”

Eva Hassett, Executive Director of the International Institute of Buffalo, said: “Without NYSESRP funding, we would have little, if any, capacity to help New Americans integrate successfully, contribute to the regrowth of Buffalo’s economy, and make our community diverse and exciting. Unless we can reverse population decline—which refugees and immigrants do – we will not sustain or grow the economy here, which affects us all. NYSESRP keeps New York State true to the values expressed by the Statue of Liberty.”

Lisa Hoyt, Director of Refugee and Immigration Services at Catholic Family Center in Rochester: “NYS continues to live by its motto of welcoming the stranger. NYSESRP funding has enabled Catholic Family Center to continue to provide the much-needed assistance to Rochester’s refugee community, enabling growth and prosperity in our city. Without this funding critical needed services would not be accomplished.”

Jill Peckenpaugh, Director, Albany U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants: “NYSESRP has been a lifesaver! Services provided as a result of this funding include assisting refugees to navigate health services, transportation, ESL classes, and removing barriers to employment, such as childcare and transportation.”

Karen Andolina Scott, Executive Director of Journey’s End Services, said: “NYSESRP has been invaluable in allowing Journey’s End to provide needed extended services to the refugee populations of Buffalo. We appreciate the support we have received from NYS and know how fortunate we are to have leaders that value refugees and asylees as individuals as well as their vast contributions to our community.”

Olive Sephuma, Director, Center for New Americans, InterFaith Works of Central New York: “IFW is grateful for NYSERP funding, which has been instrumental in enabling our agency to provide critical services that are facilitating the successful integration of New Americans into the Syracuse community.”

Avigail Ziv, Executive Director for the International Rescue Committee in New York: “The International Rescue Committee in New York is grateful for the national leadership that New York State Legislature showed by directly supporting the work of resettlement during this challenging time. This is a direct investment on the integration and success of refugees that will reverberate across neighborhoods and communities. We look forward to continuing to build this partnership.”

About Catholic Family Center: Catholic Family Center (CFC) is Greater Rochester’s largest provider of comprehensive family services. Each year we assist tens of thousands of our neighbors, relatives and friends as they work to remain or become healthy, productive, participating members of our community. We serve all people—regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, age, ability or gender. Our programs work together to address the many issues of human need across all stages of life.