New Immigrants & Refugees Coming to Buffalo

November 21, 2012 Updated Nov 21, 2012 at 12:31 AM EDT

By Ed Reilly

November 21, 2012 Updated Nov 21, 2012 at 12:31 AM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y (WKBW) This week the nation will celebrate Thanksgiving and remember the Pilgrims, who were some of the country's first immigrants.

Over 200 years, waves of immigrants have come to America seeking a new life, and many found Western New York to be the perfect place.

"We have 40 or 50 languages spoken in Buffalo today," commented Cynthia Van Ness from the Buffalo History Museum.

Thanks to Buffalo's location as a port-city on the Great Lakes, many jobs were available working on the Erie Canal and in the shipping industries.

While the importance of Buffalo as a transportation hub has diminished through the years, it is still attracting immigrant and refugees from across the globe.

"Buffalo has surpassed New York City and we are now the largest recipient of international refugees in New York State," said Tara Lyons, Immigrant Program Manager for the Buffalo History Museum.

The reason the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is relocating many people to Buffalo is the same as it was years ago - economics.

Buffalo offers the possibility of employment combined with a lower cost of living.

"21st Century new arrivals are coming from places like Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia," added Tara Lyons.

The Burmese population now makes up 1% of all ethnic groups located in the city

Buffalo's West Side is seeing the greatest change with new stores opening to cater to people from Asia and parts of Africa.

A variety of resettlement groups offer help to new arrivals, and the Buffalo History Museum offers an education program designed to help immigrant families become familiar with Western New York history and culture.