Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz issued the following statement today regarding the possibility that families and individuals seeking asylum in the United States may be travelling to Erie County as the next part of their journey:
“I have been advised by representatives of New York State that we will soon be joined by an as-yet unknown number of asylum-seekers, people who have been forced out of their own countries by authoritarian rulers or for other serious life-threatening reasons. These individuals are all legally in the country seeking asylum, have been vetted by federal authorities prior to arriving here and will be coming from New York City. While we do not yet know where they will be housed, I have been assured the costs associated with their housing, food, and other supportive services will be paid for by either New York State or New York City. The asylum seekers coming here are enduring the most difficult situation of their lives, something we should all consider, and are deserving of our respect, compassion and dignity as they work to start a new life in our country.
For more than a decade, the Department of Social Services (“ECDSS”) has worked with the five area resettlement agencies to identify the best ways to house and accommodate asylum-seekers and refugees in our county. They have recently started a joint venture known as The Refugee Partnership, which is made up of Vive la Casa/Jericho Road Community Health Center, Catholic Charities, Jewish Family Services, Journey’s End Refugee Services, and the International Institute of Buffalo. ECDSS has fostered strong and productive relationships with each of these organizations over the years and, working together, the new Refugee Partnership project is ideally positioned to provide additional support, if needed.
It should be noted, over the past decade and more, approximately 12,000 refugees have moved into and through our area as part of the good work that the Refugee Partnership does, all without fanfare and without the ridiculous fears stoked by xenophobic and ill-informed community members. Some stay here and some move on but all of these people come here seeking to build their own American dream, provide for themselves and their families, and become productive members of our society.
In fact, due to the exemplary work of the Refugee Partnership, currently there are hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers in Erie County from countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Congo, Ecuador, Somalia, Ukraine, Venezuela and more. These people are not a threat to our community and are only looking for the opportunity to pursue their dream of living in a free, democratic society. Our country is a light to the world and they have followed that light here to Erie County and beyond.
Erie County has always been a welcoming community and will continue to be one for these asylum- seekers and others as they come here on their journey to a better life. Unless we are Native Americans, our relatives all came to America from somewhere else, hoping to take part in the promise of America. That promise is alive and well in Erie County today.
Finally, as we reflect on how our community is a stronger one because of its cultural diversity, let us never forget the words of Emma Lazarus’ poem ‘The New Colossus,’ etched on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:
‘Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”
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