As New York prepares to welcome Afghan refugees who have fled the Taliban regime, a new book traces the history of a largely successful but little-known federal resettlement program that has benefitted both the refugees and the upstate New York communities in which they settled.
The New York State Bar Association partnered with the Government Law Center (GLC) at Albany Law School and the Rockefeller Institute of Government for the release of the comprehensive new book – “Immigration: Key to the Future – The Benefits of Resettlement to Upstate New York.” Following extensive research, the authors see refugees as major contributors to the economic vitality of upstate communities.
The 23-chapter, 406-page book focuses on the question of whether refugees contribute to a community’s prosperity or are a drain on a community’s safety net and resources. The book includes contributions from 30 experts in academia, the business and legal communities, service organizations, and statisticians who – through economic and demographic analysis – assembled data and provided perspectives to address this question including a number of Albany Law School authors.
In the opening section, “Overview: What Immigrants Contribute,” Director of the Justice Center and the Immigration Law Clinic Sarah Rogerson co-authored Chapter 1 titled, “Recurring Immigration Myths and Facts That Disprove Them,” with Camille Mackler - founder and executive director of Immigrant Advocates Response Collaborative (ARC).
Patrick Benjamin ’20 penned Chapter 5 in that section titled, “Refugee Policies: A Reflection on National Discourses on Immigration.”
In the second section, “Where Immigrants Contribute,” GLC Legal Director Richard Rifkin and past GLC Director and Assistant Professor Ava Ayers wrote the chapter, “Licenses for Undocumented Drivers and the Revitalization of Rural Communities.”
Albany Law student Matt DeLaus ‘23 and recent graduate Rhiannon Snide ‘21 wrote the book’s epilogue on refugee settlement, with the assistance of Rose Mary Bailly, Advisor to the Government Law Center.
The federal government, which determines where resettlement occurs, directed that approximately 6% of the refugees admitted to the U.S. since 2002 be resettled in New York, and of that number, 90% be resettled in upstate New York. Skeptics said that introducing thousands of refugees into upstate communities would be a combustible combination.
“Helping offset the demographic and economic decline in upstate New York communities, refugees pay taxes, rebuild housing stock, open stores, and take unfilled jobs,” said the book’s editor-in-chief, Scott Fein, a partner at Whiteman Osterman & Hanna in Albany, and past chair and current member of the GLC’s Board of Advisors. “As this book has noted, it takes time, support and patience, but in relatively short order, refugees are helping to rejuvenate upstate communities. The research embodied in this book demolishes old myths and replaces them with an array of facts that are compelling, persuasive and overwhelmingly positive.”
“If we can enhance citizens’ awareness of the facts about immigration – perhaps by influencing policymakers with such deep analysis as is available here – then we may find a humane and practical resolution to this complex issue that will last for a generation or more,” said Rex Smith, editor-at-large of the Times Union who penned the book’s foreword. “In a nation that has throughout its existence depended upon the energy and creativity of successive waves of immigrants, and whose citizens today stand as markers of the success of their immigrant forebears, that’s a goal fervently to be desired.”
The book is $20 for NYSBA members and $29 for non-members and more information is available on the NYSBA website.