Group will advise county executive, legislature on policies, services for immigrant and refugee communities
The first meeting of the Erie County New Americans Advisory Committee was held this week, bringing together representatives from numerous immigrant communities, service and legal agencies working with immigrants and refugees, and various Erie County departments. The committee members met to begin working on providing better access for all persons residing in Erie County, regardless of nation of birth, to the full benefits, opportunities, and services provided and administered by Erie County.
Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, who addressed the group, called for the committee's creation as part of his administration's "Initiatives for a Strong Community," a 49-point health and human services plan that identifies specific measures that Erie County government, working with partners, can take to improve the quality of life for residents in need.
"Erie County government represents everyone, from our youngest child to our oldest adult, and from our newest immigrants to our most vulnerable residents," Poloncarz said. "As a community, we have a duty to ensure that all of our residents are given the same chances and opportunities to advance themselves and become contributing members of our society.
"The New Americans Advisory Committee will serve as a two-way communications conduit between our immigrant communities and Erie County government, helping to bridge linguistic and cultural gaps and including these individuals more fully in Erie County's economic resurgence. Together, we will work to address needs and create opportunities while supporting the ongoing efforts of others."
Joining Poloncarz at the organizational meeting were representatives of the local Ethiopian, Iraqi-American, Burmese, Karen and Bhutanese-Nepali communities, along with the immigration law community, Access of WNY Inc., Journey's End Refugee Services and the University at Buffalo Immigrant and Refugee Research Institute. Erie County personnel from the departments of social services, probation and health, and the Workforce Investment Board also took part. Future meetings will be held on a monthly basis.
More than 2,000 refugees are resettled within Erie County annually, while 6.4 percent of the county's population is foreign-born.