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Editorial: Limit on refugees is a blow to Buffalo's future

President Trump’s decision to impose drastic cuts in the number of refugees coming to America will have a damaging impact on Buffalo.

Despite the fact that these new arrivals are carefully vetted in a process lasting from 18 months to two years, the president says refugees pose a security threat to the United States. He wants to cap refugee admissions at 45,000 in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It is the lowest cap since the current refugee admission program was established 38 years ago.

The change will have a dramatic impact in Buffalo, where refugees and other immigrants have helped rebuild some rundown neighborhoods. Resettlement agencies in Buffalo had been preparing to receive 884 refugees in fiscal 2018, fewer than half the arrivals in 2016 and the lowest number since fiscal 2008.

Buffalo’s population, which had been plummeting for decades, has started to stabilize, in part because of immigrants. The city’s foreign-born population grew by nearly a third between 2010 and 2014. Mayor Byron W. Brown had projected that the city’s population might be growing by the end of the decade. Now that goal may be unreachable, all because of a campaign promise that should go unfulfilled.

Refugees are not illegal immigrants stealing across the border. These new arrivals have waited for years in refugee camps as they cleared background checks.
There is a short-term cost as new refugees need social service assistance to get on their feet. But they more than make up for the help once families settle in, improve their English skills, get jobs (they are notably hard working), become taxpaying citizens, buy homes and open businesses.

A researcher at the University of Notre Dame noted that although newcomers depend upon government services upon arrival, over time they pay much more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

That positive outcome is apparent locally.

Parts of Grant and Niagara streets have been revived with businesses opened by refugees who have filled once-empty storefronts. The West Side and Black Rock/Riverside areas house many refugees from Burma, whose story was told in-depth by News Washington bureau chief Jerry Zremski. Bangladeshi families have fixed up homes on Buffalo’s East Side. And immigrants have stabilized three once-struggling parishes where they settled on the West Side.

Cutting the number of refugees allowed to reach American shores shows a lack of compassion. But it also shows a lack of comprehension about the harm it will pose to the economy, especially in places like Buffalo. Our federal representatives need to work to overturn this harsh decision.

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