Sun. Jun 20th, 2021

Last week, President Joe Biden’s administration reversed course after initially declining to alter the refugee policies of former President Trump. The change could lead to more refugees to upstate communities like Syracuse — where many are taking part in civic life. 

“I think they need to know what a huge contribution refugees make refugees make to our communities,” said New York state Sen. Rachel May, a Democrat who represents Syracuse. 

Federal policies could once again change for those with refugee status coming to the United States, and especially communities in upstate New York where the population is otherwise declining over the last several generations. 

May hopes the Biden administration will change regulations to allow more refugees into the country and that the issue should not get wrapped up in the controversies surrounding the southern border.  

“The refugee issue is different,” she said. “These are people who go through a very rigorous process. They don’t come to this country until they’ve been approved every which way for resettlement here.”

In Central New York, refugees are welcomed by non-profit organizations like the Catholic Charities. Felicia Castricone directs the effort for the group in Onondaga County. 

“What we hear from employers is refugees are loyal employees,” she said. “They work hard. They’re asset to their company.”

But many of the people entering the country face challenges: The dislocation of losing their home and their country as well as the need to find a job, a doctor or a school for the children. 

“They’ve been through generally a lot of trauma. So a lot of trauma and loss,” Castricone said. “They may have lost family members. They’ve lost their home. They’ve lost jobs and professions.”

Changes in federal policy can also affect funding for the groups that provide support for refugees. Typically Catholic Charities will provide support for a refugee from the moment they settle in the U.S. to the moment they gain full citizenship. 

“Some of funding is based on the number of refugees we re-settle,” she said. “So we’ve actually seen a loss in that.”