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U.S. ambassador to U.N. touts Buffalo's refugee community

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations arrived in Buffalo Tuesday morning for a daylong tour of the city’s refugee communities – holding Buffalo up as an example of why America should welcome outcasts from around the world

Samantha Power, a longtime human rights activist and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about genocide, said she came to Buffalo to get a firsthand look at a city that has welcomed thousands of refugees in the past decade.

“We believe what Buffalo has done is something that communities all around the United States and all around the world can learn from,” Power said during a roundtable discussion with refugees at Catholic Charities of Buffalo.

Speaking on behalf of refugees at a time when the United States just chose a president-elect – Republican Donald Trump – who has proposed a ban on immigration from Muslim countries, Power noted that it is an American tradition to welcome refugees.

“While conflict persists … we know there is going to be a global response to open our doors and our arms and our hearts,” she said.

And while Republicans have called for a ban on Syrian refugees because of terrorism concerns, Power indicated those concerns are overblown.

"Refugees are subjected to the most rigorous background checks of any individual coming to America from abroad," she said.

Power’s morning schedule also includes a meeting with Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown and media availability with Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Later in the day, she will visit the West Side Bazaar, have lunch with refugees from Burma and Americans who have helped them, visit a Syrian refugee family and participate in a town hall on refugee issues at the University at Buffalo.

Gillibrand, who took part in the roundtable discussion at Catholic Charities, said Buffalo’s population had stopped dropping for the first time since 1960 because the city had welcomed so many refugees.

“Refugees and immigrants make life here more vibrant, more prosperous,” Gillibrand said.

Power, the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, served as an aide to Barack Obama when he served in the U.S. Senate and during his 2008 campaign for the presidency.

She served on the National Security Council during Obama’s first term and has been the cabinet-level ambassador to the United Nations since 2013. She will depart office Jan. 20, 2017, when Trump becomes president.

Email: jzremski@buffnews.com

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