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Poloncarz signs letter indicating county's intention to continue welcoming refugees

Posted at 5:51 PM, Dec 03, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — In September, President Trump issued an executive order that states refugees will not be allowed to resettle into a state or locality unless a governor and local official provide written consent.

On Tuesday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz shared a letter of consent he signed, showing that Erie County will continue to welcoming refugees and helping them resettle.

Erie County has a history of welcoming refugees from around the world. The consent letter to be sent to Secretary Michael Pompeo puts in writing that the county's mission will continue.

Since 2008, Erie County welcomed more than 13,500 refugees from 40 countries as they begin their new lives in the United States.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz said as they welcome refugees fleeing their home countries because of war or genocide, there are organizations and resources here to help them navigate their new lives.

"We've made a commitment to ensure language isn't a barrier to accessing services," said Karen Rybicki, First Deputy Commissioner of Social Services. "We have language identification posters that are prominently displayed in all of our reception areas."

"We also are very proud to be here to support refugees and immigrants and survivors of torture," said Molly Carr, CEO of Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County.

Poloncarz said the refugees welcomed here are in the United States legally. But there's been a decline in the past few years in Erie County.

In 2016, there were 1,966 refugees. In 2018 that number went down to 295, a drop of more than 1,600 people.

But he said the community will continue to welcome them.

"A United States that's represented by that Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, asking everyone across the world to send us their tired, their poor because we are the community that welcomes them," said Poloncarz.