Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz issued the following statement in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and a call from an Erie County Legislator to block immigration from war-torn countries:
“Our thoughts go out to our brethren in France and we stand by our French compatriots after this horrible attack. On Friday evening immediately after the Paris attacks I contacted Central Police Services Commissioner John Glascott and Emergency Services Commissioner Dan Neaverth, Jr. to determine if there were any terrorist warnings or other information on potential terrorist attacks in the United States. The Commissioners, who are in constant communication with federal and state homeland security agencies regarding potential terrorist threats, advised me there were no credible threats reported. Since then the Commissioners have provided me with ongoing reports from the Counter Terrorism Center at the New York State Intelligence Center, a division of NYS’s Homeland Security Department. I also spoke to Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, who informed me that his office had no knowledge of any credible threats. The Sheriff and all Erie County departments take any threat very seriously and will remain vigilant going forward.
In regard to Legislator Lorigo’s comments, I am disappointed both by his comments and his ignorance of the process of resettling refugees in our country. Erie County government is NOT an active participant in the re-settlement of refugees. The decision to allow refugees of any nationality into our country is made by the federal government and the placement of refugees who are legal immigrants into communities in the U.S. is made by the federal and state governments. Neither the County Executive nor any branch of Erie County government has any say in whether any refugee is resettled in our community, nor can we prevent a legal immigrant from being resettled here.
In New York, local not-for-profit resettlement agencies work with federal and state agencies to place refugees into communities based on the ability of the agency to support them. Local resettlement agencies include Catholic Charities of Buffalo, Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County, Journey’s End Refugee Services, Inc., and the International Institute of Buffalo. Once a refugee is placed in our community through one of these agencies, Erie County’s Department of Social Services may work with the agency and individual, if the individual qualifies for any federal or state benefits, to ensure a better transition into the community.
Many of the refugees fleeing Syria are Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Christians who fled their country because they had no choice. As such, I am very disappointed by Legislator Lorigo’s statement, which seemed to be stoking the fires of Islamophobia. While we all must remain vigilant, it is important to note that our region has a long history of being a new home for immigrants from around the world who fled civil war or faced persecution in their homeland, including Iraqis, Burmese, Somalis, and during the past two years a small contingent of Syrians. All of these people have been vetted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office, a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, before being admitted to our country and placed in any community.
Erie County’s limited role, working with our partner agencies, is to help individuals who have been legally admitted to our country regardless of their religion or country of origin adjust to a new home. In that role, as always, we will continue to remain alert against terrorism in any of its forms, foreign or domestic.”