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Hochul: New York is committed to welcoming refugees from Afghanistan

Buffalo is one of 19 cities that resettles Afghan, Iraqi refugees
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Posted at 11:36 AM, Aug 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 18:43:13-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Soon-to-be New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Thursday that New York State is committed to welcoming refugees from Afghanistan.

In a tweet on Thursday, the lieutenant governor said about people in Afghanistan, "it is time for us to help them [Afghans]."

According to data from the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, a total of 860 Refugees and Special Immigrant Visa holders (SIVs) resettled in New York State in 2020, with 273 coming from Afghanistan.

The majority of refugees (222) in New York State came to Erie County.

The United States has 19 cities that accept Special Immigrant Visa holders from Iraq and Afghanistan, which includes Buffalo.

Here is the list of cities that resettles Afghan/Iraqi refugees

  1. Phoenix
  2. Denver
  3. Jacksonville, Fla.
  4. Atlanta
  5. Chicago
  6. Baltimore
  7. St. Louis
  8. Raleigh/Durham, N.C.
  9. Northern New Jersey
  10. Las Vegas
  11. Buffalo, N.Y.
  12. Cleveland
  13. Portland, Ore.
  14. Philadelphia
  15. Pittsburgh
  16. Austin, Texas
  17. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  18. Houston
  19. Salt Lake City

According to federal data, a total of 860 refugees and special immigrant visa holders resettled here, in New York state last year.

Two-hundred and seventy-three refugees came from Afghanistan, and the majority (approx. 220) came to Erie County.

Refugees who may be coming to western New York have a few options for resettlement.

"We're the City of Good Neighbors and that has been recognized in the world of refugee resettlement," Jericho Road chief program officer, Dr. Anna Mango, PhD said.As the City of Buffalo sits among the 19 cities in the nation to accept special immigrant visas for Afghans and Iraqis, it relevant during a crucial time where thousands of Afghans and American residents are quickly trying to evacuate amid the Taliban takeover.

Representative Brian Higgins, of Erie and Niagara County said, "The full, safe evacuation of Afghan citizens who have helped us needs to occur when the work is finished, not an arbritrary date that they set."

"In addition to refugees, we have quite a bit of experience resettling SIVs, which also is a legal status, through refugee channels, usually. Through the resettlement process, but is a special resource for people who helped the US Armed Forces, so it's a quicker way for people who did direct service with the Army out," Dr. Mango said.

In the meantime, refugee resettlement agencies in western New York, like Jericho Road, will remain on high-alert for Afghani asylum seekers.

"If this were a situation where they said, 'we want you to take 500 Afghani refugees tomorrow', and I'm not saying that they are saying that. I'm just saying that Buffalo would be ready to face whatever challenge was thrown. And the community as a whole, is very supportive of refugee resettlement, and very supportive of the newcomers in our community. Not just making sure that they are welcome, but also making sure that they have services, helping them to find employment," Dr. Mango said.

The state department has listed the following options that will influence where Afghan/Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa holders will be placed

  1. Choose a city from the list above
  2. List a person near whom you would like to be resettled
  3. Allow a resettlement agency to choose a location

The state department advises Special Immigrant Visa holders to consider cost of living when making decisions on where to be placed.

"The mean way here, in western New York that people come-- legally document through the refugee resettlement agencies, of which there are four in Buffalo," Dr. Mango said.

WNY has a few options for newcomers, even outside of the Afghan population, including Journey's End Refugee Services, Jewish Family Services of Western New York and Catholic Charities' refugee resettlement department."We will always welcome the immigrant, the refugee, because it's just a huge part of what we believe is the right thing to do," she added.