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Schumer says Polish pride should be part of immigration reform

WBFO News by photo Mike Desmond

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer used Buffalo's Dyngus Day celebration as back drop for his announcement to include New York’s Polish American community a priority in the comprehensive immigration reform efforts.

The Senator said it is too hard for Polish members to visit New York and spend money.  Schumer wants to change that by making Poland eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

“Polish pride should be part of comprehensive immigration reform, just as it is part of the fabric of Western New York. Poland is one of our top allies in Europe with strong ties to Western New York and should be included in comprehensive immigration reform talks to boost tourism between our two countries,” said Schumer. “I am excited to launch a plan on Dyngus Day that will make Poland eligible for the Visa Waiver Program and expedite travel arrangements for Polish citizens to visit Buffalo. Polish soldiers have fought alongside our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and its time they are included in the Visa Waiver Program along with every other country in the euro-zone.”

The Brooklyn democrat is chairman of the immigration subcommittee of the judiciary committee, where the comprehensive immigration bill will have to go to get to the senate floor. Schumer said that may happen as early as May. 

During his visit Buffalo visit Monday to help celebrate the Polish tradition of Dyngus Day on the city's East Side, the senator said the new immigration bill will end a relic of the cold war, the requirement that Poles get a visa to enter the U.S.

Schumer said Poland has been an ally for decades and deserves the same visa waiver system as every other American ally in Europe.

Schumer said many poles will visit if the new system takes effect.

"A visa waiver allows you to get a visa quickly, with many fewer questions asked.  If you have to go through a tourist visa program, it takes weeks and sometimes months and then you might get turned down. so, if it's now and I'm a Polish citizen and I'd like to come to the United States," said Schumer.  "Probably won't do it because I'm not sure I can get a visa.  Once we pass our law you can be sure you can get a visa within a few days and you can come."

Other local lawmakers responded to Schumer's plan.

“As a Polish-American, I share in the frustration of many at the unnecessary and cumbersome burdens forced on travelers wishing to travel between the United States and Poland. Passage of the JOLT Act will eliminate outdated visa laws, stimulate increased business and leisure travel between the U.S. and Poland, and invigorate tourism as well. I want to thank Senator Schumer for his work on comprehensive immigration reform and for working to include this vital Act in that effort,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

"I am pleased to learn that Senator Schumer will be advancing the Polish Visa Waiver Program as part of the comprehensive immigration reform currently being considered in Congress," said Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak. "The district I represent has a strong history of Polish heritage and tradition. Many of my constituents still have family in Poland,  continued support for this effort is great news for those who may have wanted to visit, but couldn't in the past because of an outdated policy."

“The Polish American Congress has been working for over a decade to add Poland to the Visa Waiver Program. We were pleased with Senator Schumer introduced this legislation, and even more excited when we learned that he will be advancing it as part of comprehensive immigration reform. Less paperwork and fair treatment for Polish visitors will lead to more tourists coming to our great western New York Polish-American community and partaking in all our Polish-American events,” said Richard Solecki, President of the Polish-American Congress WNY Division

Schumer said the current estimate is that these Polish tourists would spend $180-million while here, and provide 1,500 jobs.


Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.