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Governor Cuomo Declares June Immigrant Heritage Month, Recognizes June 20 as World Refugee Day

New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado announced today that Governor Cuomo has proclaimed June 20, 2019 as World Refugee Day in New York State, recognizing the importance of refugees to the state’s cultural makeup. The announcement follows the Governor’s earlier declaration of June as Immigrant Heritage Month.

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State continues to be the most welcoming state in the nation for immigrants and refugees,” New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, who oversees the state’s Office for New Americans and the Liberty Defense Project, said. “We are proud to have such a diverse patchwork and global representation within the Empire State’s borders, and we will always stand ready to welcome those from abroad to our State.”

“Refugees are an integral part of New York’s rich cultural tapestry and play an increasingly critical role in the economic vitality of many communities across the state,” said Mike Hein, commissioner of the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which oversees services for refugees. “Governor Cuomo has been a champion of the refugees coming to our state and continues to help us provide them with the assistance they require to achieve self-sufficiency. Our hope is that New York’s investment into assisting the refugee population and the resulting successes are recognized, so that we can continue welcoming those who flee their home country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”

Last month, Governor Cuomo declared June 2019 to be Immigrant Heritage Month, noting, “Our nation and state are strengthened by the diversity of our people and New York State has an especially proud history of welcoming immigrants from all countries of the world, recognizing that our advancement as a society is dependent upon a continuous flow of new immigrant life.”

OTDA’s Bureau of Refugee Services is responsible for the implementation of services to refugees in New York State. Resources are directed to local entities that help refugees and their families, as well as others in a similar immigration status, to achieve economic and social self-sufficiency.

A total of 1,281 refugees were resettled in New York State between October 2017 through September 2018. Of these:

Contributions of Refugees and Immigrants in New York State

Research has shown that refugees are contributors to local economies. For every dollar spent helping refugees start a new life in the U.S., there is significant economic return to communities.

Upstate New York continues to benefit from the contributions of its immigrant and refugee populations. In 2017, the New American Economy (NAE) released a report that documents the significant impact immigrants have had on Buffalo and Syracuse economies via population growth, workforce participation rates, tax contributions, and spending power:



Mohawk Valley: A study by Paul Hagstrom of Hamilton College, “The Fiscal Impact of Refugee Resettlement in the Mohawk Valley,” found that investing in refugees yields real economic benefits to the region by expanding the labor pool and increasing local revenues through taxes and consumer purchasing. According to New York State Department of Labor, the Mohawk Valley has seen job counts increase and unemployment levels decline over the last several years.

Refugees are the most scrutinized and vetted individuals to travel to the United States, undergoing numerous security checks by intelligence agencies, including bio-metric tests, medical screenings, and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials.

A five year study, Refugee Integration Survey and Evaluation (RISE), found that refugees from four diverse nations (Bhutan, Burma, Iraq and Somalia) moved steadily toward “high integration” each month and within three years were 92 percent employed and 76 percent insured outside of Medicaid; 99 percent were on the path to citizenship or wished to be, and 58 percent felt “proficient” in English.

New York State offers many programs and policies to empower immigrant and refugee populations.

The Office for New Americans is the nation's first statutorily created immigrant services office with 21 Opportunity Centers across the state to deliver essential services including legal consultation, naturalization assistance, community workshops, civics education and more. Opportunity Centers in all regions of the state are the focal point for communities to embrace immigrants by providing them with the tools necessary to thrive and contribute to our state. Full-time legal counsels work in conjunction with the Opportunity Centers to provide free services to immigrants in need of assistance. The New Americans Hotline - 1-800-566-7636 – is available for any immigrant that needs free legal assistance. All calls are confidential, and assistance is available in 200-plus languages. In 2018, the New Americans Hotline fielded more than 22,000 calls from immigrants seeking assistance.

The Liberty Defense Project is the nation’s first state-led public-private project to assist immigrants – regardless of status - in obtaining access to legal services and process.

The Liberty Defense Project has provided more than 30,000 vital legal services to immigrants and communities in need – particularly those who have been targeted by federal immigration enforcement tactics. The project is administered by the Office for New Americans and run in partnership with law firms, legal associations, advocacy organizations, major colleges and universities and bar associations. The Liberty Defense Project provides:

Safe Haven: The Liberty Defense Project and Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights provide free legal services, immigration clinics, know-your-rights seminars and more at consulates and religious institutions in New York City in order to reach the most vulnerable immigrants who may otherwise not be accessing these services. Families and individuals often seek refuge and guidance in the safe havens of their churches, mosques, synagogues and Buddhist temples, as well as the New York-based consulates for their native countries.

Rapid Response: The Liberty Defense Project has formed a legal Rapid Response Program to better respond to unanticipated ICE enforcement actions, targeted raids and sweeps statewide. Attorneys across the state are available to assist immigrants in urgent, time-sensitive legal jeopardy. The Rapid Response Program builds on the network of services currently being provided and establishes more urgent legal coverage for immigrants across the state, particularly in under-served communities.

New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP): The Liberty Defense Project has partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) to make New York State the first state in the nation to make legal representation available to every detained immigrant facing deportation. The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) also provides representation to immigrants who have been detained under prior orders of removal. Through the NYIFUP, New York State provides legal representation to every eligible, otherwise-unrepresented immigrant facing deportation at the Batavia, Ulster, Downstate, and Bedford Hills immigration courts.

Pro Bono Project: The Liberty Defense Project and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York partnered to launch, a first-of-its-kind statewide project in New York to identify immigration cases through community legal clinics and refers them to volunteer legal representatives, increasing statewide access to free legal services for low-income and vulnerable immigrants. The online platform gives volunteers the tools to competently and effectively assist the most vulnerable immigrants.