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Another Voice: Cuts in refugee admissions would shortchange Buffalo

By Larry Christ and Eva Hassett

We are deeply disturbed by New York Times reports that the Trump administration is ready to make catastrophic cuts in U.S. refugee admissions in 2020.

We urge Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to consider the humanitarian impact such cuts would have internationally, and the very real economic costs that cuts would have on American cities like Buffalo. We call on him to speak out in support of preserving the U.S. refugee resettlement program.

We cannot turn our backs on refugees. Thousands of refugees, waiting for years and in some cases decades, are ready to begin new lives in the United States. Globally, the number of refugees seeking resettlement is the highest in history. A total of 8,819 refugees are approved to travel to the United States today; another 29,362 refugees have cleared their U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services interview. Family members already in Buffalo and across the country await them. These vetted individuals and their families will be abandoned should the administration move forward with these cuts.

Keeping refugees and immigrants out of our country harms us all, economically and in terms of our shared humanity. This starvation of the refugee resettlement program is not only a threat to our national – and indeed international – security, it threatens the burgeoning economic resurgence in cities like Buffalo.

Which of the millions of children in refugee camps around the world could grow up to be the next Albert Einstein, Madeleine Albright or Sergey Brin (all of whom entered the U.S. as refugees)? If these decimating cuts are imposed, we undoubtedly slam the door on countless future leaders who, given the opportunity, might make significant contributions to our society.

With 102 years of experience welcoming the foreign-born to Buffalo, the International Institute knows first hand the critical role that immigrants and refugees play in our community. The foreign-born are vital to economic and demographic survival in the Rust Belt, including Buffalo.

From 2000 to 2015, foreign-born residents drove 50% of all population growth and 66% of working-age population growth in the Great Lakes region. Refugees are an integral component of this growth.

In Buffalo, anyone who is paying attention can see the positive impact that refugees and immigrants make. Employers find good employees. Schools find excellent students. Our city benefits from the new businesses of every size created by immigrants.

We urge Secretary Esper to remember what truly makes America great – a commitment to liberty and justice for all who seek it.

Larry Christ is board chairman, and Eva Hassett executive director, of the International Institute of Buffalo.

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