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Refugee agencies seek $12 million from state because of Trump order

ALBANY – Refugee resettlement agencies stand to lose a lot of money if President Trump gets his way and halts all refugees coming into the country for 120 days.

His original executive order may have been struck down, but with Trump prepared to issue a new order Wednesday, the agencies and state lawmakers are making a push for $12 million to help them.

The agencies receive money for resettling families based on the numbers they resettle. If the 120-day freeze is reinstituted, that will be a big financial setback.

The lawmakers, including Assemblyman Sean Ryan of Buffalo, are advocating for the $12 million package to assist them.

The president’s original executive order banned anyone coming into the United States from seven Muslim-dominated countries, as well as putting a pause on all refugees for a period of 120 days. Those were struck down.

Still standing, though, is president’s order to cap the number of refugees entering the United States at 50,000 in the coming year. The cap preciously was 100,000.

“If the ban were to be fully implemented, it would significantly impact the operations of refugee resettlement agencies across New York State,” six upstate Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter earlier this month to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

In their letter, the lawmakers noted that, of the 5,028 refugees who were resettled in New York State last year, 94 percent went to upstate communities.

They said the state should step in with money so agencies can retain staff helping refugees already resettled in New York and to process new ones allowed to come after an expected 120-day pause concludes.

The lawmakers note that agencies receive $950 per refugee from the federal government for services provided during an initial 90-day period. During that period, the agencies help refugees find housing, jobs and get their children enrolled in local schools. They say New York State should set aside $5 million for a new program to fund services beyond that three-month period.

“The 90-day period is not long enough to fully immerse the refugees and help them to become fully self-sufficient and integrated into society,” the lawmakers wrote the Assembly leader.

Another $5 million in state funding is being requested by lawmakers and the agencies for legal services for refugees.

“Additional funding for legal services will help refugees to ensure they are complying with all the legal requirements,” the lawmakers said of the complexities of U.S. immigration laws.

Ryan said refugees have helped bolster otherwise declining populations in several upstate cities.

“While it’s a humanitarian program, helping refugees has had tremendous economic development impact on the upstate cities,” he said.

The $12 million funding request is likely to make it into the state Assembly’s one-house budget proposal, which is due to be OK’d March 13. The package will then become part of talks between the Senate and governor’s office.

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