Modified: December 3, 2019 1:15pm
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today joined the leaders of four local refugee resettlement agencies, along with personnel from the Erie County Department of Social Services department, at the International Institute of Buffalo to publicly announce a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo indicating Erie County’s intention to consent to initial refugee resettlement in the county as part of the recently-issued federal Executive Order 13888 (“EO”). The restrictive new EO, which emanated from Washington on September 26, is planned to go into effect on December 26 and would give state and local officials the authority to block refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions. However, the EO is already facing legal challenges in a new lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland on November 21 by three faith-based refugee humanitarian groups, charging that the Executive Order violates federal law.
“From its inception, Erie County has welcomed immigrants and refugees. Whether it was Irish and German immigrants in the 19th century, the Italian and Polish in the 20th century, or Burmese and Congolese refugees in the 21st, Erie County is the place where many start to make their American dreams come true. Today we are re-affirming that that is still the case and will remain so into the future,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Since 2010, Erie County has welcomed more than 11,000 refugees and the positive impact of the recent wave of refugees is apparent in our revitalized neighborhoods and the growing local economy. This letter confirms that nothing has changed for Erie County and that we will continue as a welcoming community to people fleeing persecution and seeking to begin their own American dream.”
Poloncarz was joined at the event by First Deputy Commissioner of Erie County Social Services Karen Rybicki as well as the International Institute’s Executive Director Eva Hassett, Chief Executive Officer of Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County Molly S. Short Carr, Ph.D., Executive Director of Journey’s End Refugee Services, Inc. Karen M. Andolina Scott, and Dennis Walczyk, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. These four resettlement agencies work alongside the Erie County Department of Social Services helping refugees new to the country and to Erie County to better integrate into the community.
“Through a solution-focused, trauma-informed approach we assess needs and link individuals with benefits and services for which they are eligible. The Erie County Department of Social Services recognizes that a refugee’s ability to secure employment is vital to their ability to achieve self- sufficiency. Through engagement in ESL classes and work experience, we have been successful with job placements and have seen positive transitions from welfare to work for our refugee clients,” said Karen Rybicki, First Deputy Commissioner of Social Services.
The International Institute of Buffalo’s Executive Director Eva Hassett said, “We thank County Executive Poloncarz for his leadership in affirming the important role that refugees play in Erie County, and welcoming them without reservation. For more than 100 years, the International Institute has stood with the foreign-born as they made new homes and lives in Buffalo. We continue to do so today, because we know that refugees make Western New York economically stronger and culturally richer. We join the County Executive in sending the clear message that this community values you, welcomes you, and wants to grow with you."
Since 2008 Erie County has welcomed more than 13,500 refugees from 40 countries as they begin new lives here in America. Approximately one-third of those refugees (4,384) journeyed here from Burma, while another 2,056 traveled from Somalia and 1,426 arrived from Iraq; these three countries alone account for over half of the total refugee population finding safety and a new start in Erie County since 2008. In 2008, Erie County welcomed 961 refugees but that number had dipped to 479 in 2018 after reaching a high of 1,966 resettlements in 2016.
“Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County is proud to resettle refugees in Western New York. We commend County Executive Poloncarz for standing up to support refugee resettlement and ensuring that this life sustaining and community building program continues here in Erie County,” said Molly S. Short Carr, Chief Executive Officer of Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County. “Through strong leadership and community engagement, Buffalo and Erie County continue to be welcoming and thriving communities for refugees and immigrants.”
Karen M. Andolina Scott, Executive Director of Journey’s End Refugee Services, added, “The Trump Administration’s executive order giving state and local governments the authority to block refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions keeps refugees apart from their families, and prevents willing and able American communities from welcoming people in need of safety. That said, we are extremely fortunate in WNY to have local elected officials who have been committed to supporting the refugee resettlement program – who see and understand our moral obligations, as well as the economic and cultural gains this program brings to the WNY area.”
"In the face of a challenging environment for immigrants and refugees in our country today, it is affirming that our county will continue to welcome and support refugees and immigrants. We are grateful for the stand the County Executive is taking with this latest Executive Order. We all recognize the limitless contributions immigrants have made to to our culture and the fabric and diversity of life in our country, county and city, going back to the founding of the United States through today. We must always remember and continue to be a beacon of hope," said Dennis C. Walczyk, Catholic Charities of Buffalo President and CEO.
For more information:
On the Erie County Department of Social Services, visit http://www2.erie.gov/socialservices/
On the International Institute of Buffalo, visit https://iibuffalo.org/
On Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County, visit https://www.jfsbuffalo.org/
On Journey’s End Refugee Services, visit https://www.jersbuffalo.org/
On Catholic Charities of Buffalo, visit https://www.ccwny.org/
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