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Refugee advocates predict WNY economic loss under Trump plan

Year in and year out, they arrive by the hundreds, refugees hoping Buffalo will be their gateway to the American dream.

Last year alone, the number of new arrivals rose to more than 1,800 across the region.

This year, though, expect about half that number.

Immigration advocates say President Trump's downsizing of the nation's resettlement program is almost certain to cut in half the roughly 1,500 refugees who arrived here each year for the past several years.

They also think the impact on everything from population growth to housing values to business start-ups could be dramatic.

"There's a huge economic impact to the city and the county, and we don't think people understand that impact,"said Marlene Schillinger, president of Jewish Family Services in Buffalo.

It's no secret immigrants, many of them refugees, have taken up residence in the city and, in some neighborhoods, have helped reverse population decline.

Trump's merit-based immigration plan could mean a smaller Buffalo

In a recent meeting with editors and reporters at The Buffalo News, Schillinger joined other refugee advocates in suggesting the region could also suffer a substantial loss of tax base, economic wealth and small business growth unless Trump's plan is altered. While federal judges have blocked parts of the plan that ban travel from certain nations, Trump's plan to cut in half the number of refugees admitted to the United States still stands and has advocates concerned.

"They become taxpayers the moment they step off the plane," Karen M. Andolina-Scott, executive director of Journey's End Refugee Services, said of arriving immigrants.

Under Trump's plan, all refugee resettlements are on hold for 120 days and, once they resume, the number of new resettlements will fall to 50,000 this year, down from the 110,000 proposed by former President Barack Obama.

In addition to travel ban, Trump also cut number of refugees to America

Dennis C. Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities, said his organization will resettle 340 refugees this year, down from the 650 they were expecting.

At Journey's End, Trump's downsizing will mean 350 new refugees this year, not the 600 it had anticipated.

The impact, Walczyk said, will be felt throughout the region but especially in those neighborhoods where refugee communities have taken root and grown. He pointed to three Catholic parishes on the West Side that were once struggling to stay alive and are now stable because of the influx of immigrants in their neighborhoods.

"They are vibrant parishes," he said. "They've been reborn."

Refugees also have opened restaurants and other small businesses that have helped stimulate West Side neighborhoods.

Local center takes holistic approach to help refugee survivors of trauma, torture

But Walczyk and the others warn that the consequences of Trump's resettlement downsizing will extend beyond just economics.

They worry about refugees who still have family overseas and worry about their ability to ever join them here in Buffalo. They also know of refugees who wonder if they'll ever be able to travel to and from their homeland again.

"We have staff from Iraq and the Congo and they're worried about their families there," said Schillinger.

Walczyk said the fear in Buffalo's immigrant communities is so strong, it affects even the most stable of refugee families.

"We have people who were resettled three or four years who are afraid off being deported," he said. "They're living in fear."

[PolitiFact: See where refugees settled in New York in 2016]

Related: From Burma to Buffalo: The refugee wave changing out city]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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