Poloncarz calls Trump's stance on immigration "un-American in nature"
After signing executive orders to pursue construction of a new wall along the Mexican border and to withhold federal grant money from cities harboring immigrants not living in the U.S. legally, President Donald Trump is expected to sign an order temporarily blocking entry into the U.S. from several predominantly Muslim nations. A local elected leader who has encouraged the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Erie County calls Trump's stance "un-American."
Trump's expected executive order would impose temporary bans on refugees entering the U.S. from several Middle Eastern nations where terrorism is known to flourish. Those nations, including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Those nations' respective populations are mostly Muslim. Many supporting Trump's position believe allowing refugees into the U.S. from those nations amounts to an invitation to terrorists to move to this side of the globe.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz pointed out, however, that many of those fleeing Syria are Maronite Christians who are fleeing persecution. Many Muslims are also leaving their homelands to escape violence, including Syrians who have been caught in an ongoing civil war.
"It's important for the public to know that there are people persecution all across the world, dictatorships and totalitarian regimes," Poloncarz said. "They try to come here to be free and create a safe society and life for themselves and their children, and the president has just basically said I'm going to slam the door on those individuals."
Among those who have settled in Buffalo from Syria is a teenager named Sara. She appeared in City Hall earlier this week to share her life's story with lawmakers who were, as part of the Police Oversight Committee's hearing, listening to concerns from members of the immigrant community. Sara submitted her story in writing to Council members but then read her story to reporters in the hallway. That story included details of fleeing from Syria to Lebanon and later Jordan, where a lengthy vetting process began for her family, one that ultimately led to their welcome into the U.S.
"The interviews continues for a year and a half," she explained. "After that they called my father to tell him about the two appointments to go to the hospital for medical tests. One day, IOM (International Organization for Migration) called us and they told us about the traveling appointment. My family was so tired, optimistic and they were so happy during the immigration process."
Poloncarz says refugees who have settled in Western New York have all gone through the same lengthy vetting process that Sara and her family underwent.
"Our State Department is doing an exceptional level of vetting on these individuals, their family members and the like to make sure they're not terrorists," the county executive said.
The libertarian-leaning Cato Institute reported last fall that the odds of being killed in a domestic terror attack by an asylum seeker or refugee are severely slim. The odds of dying at the hands of an asylum seeker, according to the report, are one in 2.73 billion per year, while the odds of dying in a terror attack by a refugee are one in 3.64 billion per year.
Poloncarz says one is more likely to die violently by someone born in the U.S.
"We've seen that recently, including the recent shooting in Florida where it was a resident of the United States who was born here," he said, referring to the Pulse nightclub massacre. "Of course, the murders down in Charleston, South Carolina. Dylan Roof, an American citizen who is a Christian, who went into a church and assassinated people who were in their prayer group."
He noted that prior to September 11, 2001, the worst terror attack on U.S. soil was carried out six years before by Niagara County native Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City.