Let’s be blunt: President Trump’s policy halve the number of refugees entering the United States will hurt Buffalo.
These new arrivals are carefully vetted. They pose little in the way of threat to the safety of the community; rather, they help to bolster its otherwise declining population and they become economic contributors to the region. We should be welcoming and encouraging these brave and hopeful souls, not hindering those seeking to come herer and terrifying those who are already here.
Refugees already undergo a lengthy and grueling examination before they are allowed to come here. There is more risk for these individuals than there is for Americans.
Critics may also believe that refugees are an economic drag on the communities where they settle. They certainly do require services at first, though Buffalo has been welcoming and ready to provide them.
Even more to the point, though, as they settle in, they become economic contributors. Some are opening businesses – think Sun Cuisines restaurant. Others have filled vacant storefronts on Grant Street and other neighborhoods. Many will own homes. Refugees have been a net addition to Western New York.
“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.
Dennis C. Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities, noted that three parishes on the West Side that had been once struggling to stay afloat are now stable, because of immigrants who settled in those neighborhoods. “They are vibrant parishes,” he said. “They’ve been reborn.”
As Paul Hagstrom, a Hamilton College economist, observed after studying a refugee influx in Utica, refugees ultimately pay more in taxes than they consume in public services. That’s a bottom line.
Finally, this is a nation of immigrants; the Pilgrims were refugees. Immigrants, though not always welcomed, have strengthened and supported the country for centuries.
Trump’s policy is already having an unwanted effect on Western New York, where only half of the 1,500 refugees expected are likely to arrive. Catholic Charities will settle just 340 refugees this year, for example, down from the 650 predicted, Walczyk said.
Similarly, at Journey’s End Refugee Services, Executive Director Karen M. Andolina-Scott said her agency will settle only 350 new refugees, not the 600 it had anticipated.
That hurts the community and it hurts the refugees, too. Many of those hoping to come here are living desperate lives that most Western New Yorkers can hardly imagine. And those who have settled here have been given reason to fear their families will be unable to join them in America or that they will be able travel to their homelands again, uncertain that they will be allowed to return.
And for what reason? The policy is cruel to refugees and damaging to the community. Western New York’s federal representatives, in the House and Senate, need to fight it.