Anchor Institutions: Refugee Resettlement Agencies

September 11, 2018. The Trump administration’s decision to decrease the number of refugees admitted and in general slow down the refugee resettlement process means that only a trickle of refugees are coming into the United States. As FPI noted in our recent reporton refugee employment, the United States is on track to resettle just 20,000 refugees in 2018, down from 97,000 in 2016.

This is a tragedy for refugees, who languish in resettlement camps or live in horrific danger. For the United States, it is also a strain on communities around the country, nowhere more so than in upstate New York.

Why? Refugee resettlement agencies are anchor institutions in these areas. They provide services for some of the most vulnerable community members, jobs for local residents, and a productive use for buildings that in some cases might otherwise be vacant. But, funding for refugee resettlement is driven mostly by the number of refugees placed, and as those numbers dwindle so does this important source of federal funding to anchor institutions in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Utica, and others across upstate New York that are experiencing negative funding impacts or even shutting down.

Anchor institutions are important because they are deeply rooted in the community and boost economic development. This is the lesson of a fascinating recent podcast interviewby the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which focuses on anchor institutions in general, but could just as well be about the role of refugee resettlement agencies in particular. Anchor instructions are a key asset to community and economic revitalization and growth: they can be schools, hospitals, universities or, yes, refugee resettlement agencies.

The podcast notes that anchor institutions provide services that help families, contribute to the local economy, employ residents and promote economic development. Resettlement agencies do exactly that. They help refugees with housing, employment, English language courses, and medical and mental health assistance; they generate local economic activity as refugees and the agencies themselves buy food, clothing, home furnishings, and other goods and services from local stores; and they employ local residents as case workers, teachers, building maintenance workers, construction workers, and more.

Refugees may then extend the economic impact. This is particularly important in areas that wrestle with population decline: refugees may put to use housing that would otherwise be empty, help keep open schools that may otherwise be on the verge of closing, and begin to bring vitality to downtown areas as they open restaurants, grocery stores, and other “main street” businesses.

Refugee placement data at the metro-area level compiled by FPIreveals that many areas in the rustbelt that have been experiencing population decline have seen relatively large numbers of refugee replacements in the past ten years. For example, in the past decade Detroit has had 18,000 placements and 13,000 in Buffalo, NY. Refugees have helped reverse population decline, revitalize communities, add to the local workforce, start businesses that create jobs and contribute to the local economy through taxes.

Derek Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs at the University of Chicago, commented in the podcast that with the right strategies there is even more that anchor institutions could do to boost the local economy. As he put it:

“I think that the potential for anchor institutions to play a role in upping the strength in our communities and the strength in our families — it’s off the charts…but we haven’t even really scratched the surface of what anchors can do. And I think that it’s incumbent on everybody; not just the anchors, but the cities, the philanthropy and foundations, the corporate sector, the nonprofit sector to be looking to make sure their anchors are at the table in developing these kinds of solutions,” Douglas said of anchor institutions.

A key feature of anchor institutions is that they are rooted in the community and are not going anywhere. That is how refugee resettlement agencies have been viewed for many decades. However, as federal immigration policies are upended by President Trump, these agencies are facing threats of decreased funding and possible closures.

In New York, lawmakers recognized this threat, and the 2017 state budget included for the first time $2 million to help refugee resettlement agencies weather a difficult period, a policy recommendation the Fiscal Policy Institute was pleased to help shape. This funding was renewed in the 2018 state budget, which also added $1.75 million to support the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees to establish a “One World Welcome and Opportunity Center” to serve as a one-stop-shop with other organizations, and to expand their services to include vocational and workforce training for all counties in the Utica region. These are important steps in the right direction, and the state should look for more ways to support these important anchor institutions through an extremely challenging political climate.

Click hereto listen to the Annie E. Casey Foundation podcast interview with Derek Douglas about why anchor institutions matter.

By: Cyierra Roldan and David Dyssegaard Kallick

For TMCO, Refugees Are Key to Diverse and Welcoming Workplace

September 4, 2018. TMCO, a company located in Lincoln, Nebraska, strives to create a diverse workplace that includes refugees. They provide English language courses for the workers, help schedule doctor appointments, provide a family-first mentality and organize potluck dinners for all the employees. Chris Decker, professor and chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, discusses the importance of refugees in Lincoln. He notes that minorities are the reason for the population growth over the last decade and that they create more jobs for others. Diane Temme, chief financial officer of TMCO, highlights that the company’s workforce is diverse, welcoming and connected.

In the nearly four decades that refugees have called Lincoln home, they have become an integral part of the workforce and local economy, said Chris Decker, professor and chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The most common areas refugees are employed are meat processing, hospitality and construction, he said.

Refugees make up at least 20 to 30 percent of many of these businesses, according to a 2018 Fiscal Policy Institute study.

This year’s reduction in resettlements will likely impact population growth, especially in a state where 95 percent of growth in the past decade was attributable to minorities, said David Drozd, research coordinator at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Click here for the Lincoln Journal Star.

Anti-Immigration Group FAIR Achieves New Political Clout in Trump’s America- Despite Being Labeled A Hate Group

August 30, 2018. The anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) which advocates for the elimination of all illegal immigration, cuts to legal immigration and not providing amnesty for children born in the U.S. of undocumented immigrants, is stepping into mainstream America, and moving away from the margins where it has previously been. Although this organization has been labeled a hate group, it has seen increased support and social media presence, and the recruitment of its previous leaders to the Trump administration. Pete Boogaard, of FWD.us, refers to FPI’s small business owners report in order to highlight the importance of immigration.

Pete Boogaard, communications director for the pro-immigration FWD.us organization, disputed that assertion. He pointed to a 2012 study by the Fiscal Policy Institute that found 18 percent of small business owners in the U.S. were immigrants – and they accounted for 30 percent of the growth in small businesses from 1990-2010.

‘We believe that immigrants and immigration are good for our communities, good for our country and good for our economy,’ Boogaard told DailyMail.com.

Click here for the full article.

Racial Disparities in Economic Development Spending

August 7, 2018. A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute and Make The Road New York takes a look at the racial disparities in the state’s economic development spending. Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, and Ben Wolcott, Campaign Researcher at Make the Road New York discuss the findings on WCNY’s Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter.

Here is a link to the radio episode.

Inequities in Economic Development System Show in New Report

August 6, 2018. The Fiscal Policy Institute and Make The Road New York’s new report discusses how investments by the regional economic development councils in predominantly white communities vastly outweigh those made in communities of color. In a new interview with Capital Tonight on Spectrum News, Ron Deutsch of the Fiscal Policy Institute and Yatziri Tovar on Make The Road New York talk about how New York State’s economic development shortchanges people of color.

Here is a link to the article and video on Spectrum News.

Pressure Mounts on Assembly to Tackle Stalled Anti-Corruption Measures

August 2, 2018. This article discusses the pressures being placed on the Senate to return to Albany to take up a bill re-authorizing New York City to operate cameras in school zones to catch speeders and the call to tackle ethics reform. The two ethics reform bills that stalled in the Assembly before its session ended in June are aimed at boosting government transparency and oversight. One of these bills is the “database of deals”, a policy supported by The Fiscal Policy Institute, which would permit the public to search online for detailed information about economic development benefits awarded by the state, along with their precise costs and job creation results.

“These two unfinished items, in the wake of these recent corruption trials and scandals and convictions, are long past due,’’ said Ron Deutsch, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, one of the groups pressing for the measures.

Here is a link to the article in The Buffalo News.

New York’s Economic Spending Shortchanges Nonwhite Communities, Report Says

August 2, 2018. This article discusses a new report written by The Fiscal Policy Institute and Make the Road New York which shows that areas with a higher concentration of people of color across New York State are awarded less than their fair share of economic development funds. Additionally this study found that white males are massively overrepresented on the Regional Economic Development Councils which allocate these funds.

“The regional council competition is one of the largest sources of economic development money in the state,” the authors wrote. “Historically, this system has shortchanged communities of color.”

Here is the link to the article in the New York Times

Read the full report here.

Press Release: New Report Reveals How NY Economic Development Funds Shortchange Communities of Color

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

August 2, 2018 

Media Contact

Yatziri Tovar, yatziri.tovar@maketheroadny.org, 917-771-2818

Ron Deutsch, deutsch@fiscalpolicy.org, 518-469-6769

New Report Reveals How NY Economic Development Funds Shortchange Communities of Color

Report released today by Make the Road New York & the Fiscal Policy Institute shows white males massively overrepresented on Regional Councils and funding for communities of color drastically less than for white communities.

See the press release letter here.

New York, NY (August 2nd, 2018)—Today, Make the Road New York, the Fiscal Policy Institute, New York Communities for Change and ALIGN held a press conference in front of New York City’s Regional Economic Development Council’s Office to mark the release of “​Shortchanged​,” a new report previewed in​ ​The New York Times​ last night. The report, authored by the Fiscal Policy Institute and Make the Road New York, reveals stark racial disparities in the operation of Governor Cuomo’s signature economic development strategy – Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC’s). The leadership of the regional councils – appointed by the Governor – is 90 percent white, and almost entirely white male. This compares to just 56 percent of the New York population as whole. An analysis of the funding investment through the program reveals additional race disparities: lower state economic investment in areas with high concentrations of people of color. Economists, researchers and community leaders at the press conference explained the report findings including that the REDC program awards significantly less investment per capita in regions with higher concentrations of people of color than areas that are predominantly white. While Mid-Hudson and Long Island would have been awarded at least twice as much money if they got their fair share in the annual development competition, New York City would have been awarded 10 times their allotment.

The​ ​report​ details Cuomo’s economic development initiatives in the state as well as recent corruption scandals associated with them. The report finds that a complete overhaul of the economic development system is necessary in order to invest in strategies proven to support all New Yorkers, including people of color. The report calls for passing the Database of Deals (S.6613-B and A.8175-A) legislation, which unanimously passed the NYS Senate this year, to bring much-needed transparency to this broken system. It further calls for investment in public goods such as infrastructure, education, and housing instead of crony capitalism that masquerades as economic development.

Ana Alulema, member of Make the Road New York and New York City resident, said,​ “We need investments in our classrooms–not tax giveaways to wealthy developers. Along with

creating good jobs, that’s what real economic development looks like. Under Governor Cuomo, New York has underinvested in high needs public school districts by billions of dollars, especially in communities of color. Our children cannot wait any longer.”

Ron Deutsch, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, said, ​“It should be abundantly clear after numerous scandals, indictments and convictions, that our economic development system is broken, inequitable and in desperate need of a major overhaul. People of color are being shortchanged while REDC leaders are awarding themselves tens of millions of dollars a year in subsidies in what amounts to a clear conflict of interest.”

Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said,​ “This report is shocking. And we should keep in mind that this report only covers those deals that researchers were able to evaluate based on publicly available information. No one knows about the secret offers the Governor may have made to other corporate giants like Amazon. The total underrepresentation of leaders of color on the councils, the disparate spending that neglects communities of color, and corruption scandals like the Buffalo Billion may just be the tip of the iceberg. To even begin to assess how our state’s failed economic development approach can be reformed, we must demand the Database of Deals: a complete database of past, current, and future deals. In the meantime, a moratorium on corporate giveaways is in order.”

Sixta Barriga, a member of New York Communities for Change, said,​ “While the Governor claims that he cares about immigrants, immigrant communities struggle to survive in New York. The state is giving away billions to corporations while neighborhoods like mine in Flatbush, Brooklyn get shortchanged. The Governor should invest in communities of color that have been ignored for decades, by investing in housing, transit and public education.”

Jonas Shaende, Chief Economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute, said,​ “​The main and very fixable problem with the state’s economic development framework is that — due to its opacity, mediocre design, and lack of accountability — it consistently fails to maximize public benefit in the areas of job creation and poverty reduction. Its noticeably uneven development commitments disadvantage low-income and vulnerable communities. At the same time, there are ample opportunities for corruption, self-dealing, and other forms of abuse. It is true, Governor Cuomo is not responsible for every corrupt official in New York. Nonetheless, he is responsible for the system​’s design and outcomes. Both can and need to be improved; and there exists a political and expert consensus on what is to be done. The key first step to the necessary enhancements in transparency, accountability, and governance is the “Database of Deals,” a proposal with bipartisan support in the state legislature.”

The report concludes with the following recommendations:

  •  Invest in public goods. Instead of corporate giveaways, the governor should reallocateregional economic development support towards proven investment strategies.
  •  Pass the Database of Deals (S.6613-B and A.8175-A) bill.
  •  Support economic development programs that assist Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises.

Read the full report here.

New Wave of Refugee Research: An Emerging Consensus

July 30, 2018. For many decades, refugees were not at the center of attention in immigration debates. Refugee resettlement was viewed as a duty to the United States that we handled quietly and with pride. There were debates about how to handle border enforcement, interior enforcement, visas for farm workers, visas for high-skilled workers, and of course constant wrestling about a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Refugee resettlement, never a big share of overall immigration, was seen as a humanitarian imperative.

Today, that looks different. Refugees were very prominently in the news in the summer of 2015, large numbers of families fleeing from Syria and Afghanistan to Europe, Turkey, and Lebanon. Then the Trump administration raised the temperature of the debate, putting refugees in the spotlight along with undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, people from Muslim-majority countries, and future immigration altogether.

As refugees are becoming a target of anti-immigrant policy, researchers are starting to compile and release reports documenting the positive contributions of refugees. The Fiscal Policy Institute has published or co-published several reports focusing on refugees, including “Refugees as Employees: Good Retention, Strong Recruitment,” which documents the benefits to employers when they incorporate refugees into the workforce. Others include refugee placement data by metro-area and a co-released report with the Center for American Progress outlining the high levels of integration among Bosnian, Burmese, Hmong, and Somali refugees and a follow up study on Syrian refugees. And so have organizations such as the Urban Institute, New American Economy, Migration Policy Institute, Global Detroit, Pew Research Center, Center for Migration Studies and other organizations and academics across the United States, showing the economic impacts of refugees, immigrant profiles and more.

A recent study by Hamutal Bernstein of the Urban Institute does a valuable job of bringing together a lot of the current findings. “Bringing Evidence to the Refugee Integration Debate,” outlines the policy debate, and cites research that demonstrates the economic, civic and linguistic integration outcomes of refugees found in other research, available data sources and data limitations.

To highlight a few of the points of research consensus Bernstein finds:

  • After initial assistance getting settled, refugees contribute to the economy.
  • Refugees are entrepreneurial and become business owners.
  • As refugees’ time in the U.S. increases, their English language proficiency becomes greater.
  • Children of refugees have high levels of educational attainment.
  • Refugee labor force participation rates rise to a similar rate or exceed those of U.S.-born residents.
  • Refugees are more likely to become homeowners after residing in the U.S. for 10 years or more.
  • Many refugees become U.S. citizens and perform their duty to vote to engage in the American democracy.

Refugees are revitalizing declining cities and helping to reverse population decline. America’s sense of pride in helping those in need, long considered one of America’s core values, is under threat. While many refugee advocates are eager to stress that resettlement is a moral imperative, it is also valuable to remind the public that refugees are not a burden, rather they are an asset to the economy and the rich cultural diversity of the United States. Continuing refugee resettlement continues to show American’s compassion and persistence to those who seek to come to America to find peace and safety. As a country, we don’t do it out of self-interest. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that it’s also good for all of us.

By: Cyierra Roldan

 

NY Pols Unveil Bill to Establish ‘Sanctuary State’

July 26, 2018. This article discusses the introduction of a new bill that would establish New York as a “sanctuary state.” Under the measure, which has been introduced by State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn), state and local enforcement agencies would be prohibited from acting as agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, severely limiting the information they would be authorized to share with federal authorities. Additionally, the bill would restrict state and local agencies from cooperating with ICE to arrest or detain immigrants in the Empire State.

Peralta and Ortiz noted that, according to a study released by the Fiscal Policy Institute, undocumented immigrants contribute about $1.1 billion to state and local taxes in New York. The analysis points out that undocumented immigrants are responsible for about $40 billion of the state’s Gross Domestic Product, or economic output. They account for 11 percent of the leisure and hospitality industry and 9 percent in agriculture and construction in New York.

Here is the link to the article in The Forum.

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