Buffalo's International Institute stands ready to assist with migrants

"Buffalo is known as a refugee resettlement hub" - Jennifer Rizzo-Choi
International Institute of Buffalo, Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, N.Y.
International Institute of Buffalo, Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, N.Y. Photo credit International Institute

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) She can't talk specifics, but Jennifer Rizzo-Choi tells WBEN that the International Institute of Buffalo is aware that there may be movement of people soon. "The organizations in town that serve refugees and immigrants have been standing by, waiting, and trying to be as prepared as possible, should we receive people who are in need of immediate services."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Wednesday reaffirmed an earlier statement that everyone coming to Erie County from New York City has been vetted by the federal government as asylum seekers.

Choi, who serves as Executive Director of the Institute, was asked, based on her experience, if it is correct to assume that everyone coming is seeking asylum?

"The way it works is that you have to intake every single person that comes looking for services. To identify someone as an asylum seeker, you have to
ask them questions. Asylum requires proof that someone is outside of their homeland and cannot return home due to a well founded fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group."

Choi said additionally, the Biden administration has been trying to streamline
other groups, such as those trying to apply for humanitarian parole or temporary protective status which is specific to certain nationalities.

Make no mistake, what is happening at the southern border, and in New York City, is in Choi's opinion, a crisis.

"When these surges arrive at the border, our immigration system, and specifically our asylum system, is broken. It's not built to give a quick response to people and let them know if they can stay or not. It all leads to backlogs and bottlenecks."

She said the problem is exacerbated while someone is waiting to get an appointment or court appearance, because they can't work for a long period of time. "If people were given permission to work, then they could start
providing for themselves."

Choi added that Buffalo has an availability of jobs and has been successful with refugee resettlement. "It's one of the reasons that Buffalo is known as a refugee resettlement hub. There's an affordable cost of living, a network of transportation, and social service providers who help people when they get here."

Last year alone, 200 refugees were placed in jobs in Buffalo that ranged from light manufacturing, industrial housekeeping, to landscaping.

Featured Image Photo Credit: International Institute