Monday, April 11, 2016

THE WELCOME MAT - Refugees and a Struggling Town

"How refugee resettlement became a revival strategy for this struggling town" PBS NewsHour 4/7/2016


SUMMARY:  In the midst of a campaign season filled with anti-migrant rhetoric, the once-downtrodden town of Utica in upstate New York has been more welcoming; one out of every four citizens there is a refugee.  But Utica's commitment to resettlement isn’t purely humanitarian -- its open door policy is also a pioneering economic tool for revitalizing the Rust Belt.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Post-industrial Utica, New York; Upstate, downtrodden, and, in the heart of downtown, where the United Methodist Church used to be, a thriving mosque.

In the world beyond Utica, the tide of refugees rises, the fear of foreigners swells.  Muslim terrorists, real and imagined, haunt us.  Ted Cruz calls for increased policing of Muslim neighborhoods.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), Republican Presidential Candidate:  Focus on communities where radicalization is a risk.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Donald Trump’s first campaign ad went further.

NARRATOR:  The politicians can pretend it’s something else, but Donald Trump calls it radical Islamic terrorism.  That’s why he’s calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what’s going on.

PAUL SOLMAN:  But when we asked Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri if the city would be willing to resettle Syrian refugees?

MAYOR ROBERT PALMIERI, Utica, New York:  I would say, absolutely, we would be, because Utica starts with you.  It’s as simple as that.

PAUL SOLMAN:  There’s the humanitarian aspect, of course, America’s historic promise to extend a hand to huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  But Utica likes the economics.

MAYOR ROBERT PALMIERI:  They’re willing to work and they work extremely hard.  It’s the rebound for our great city.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Refugee resettlement as an economic development tool, a Rust Belt revival strategy Utica has pioneered.  After decades of decline — the city lost a third of its population when its factories closed — Utica is growing again, back up to 62,000 people, thanks in part to its reputation as — quote — “the town that loves refugees,” who now make up one out of every four residents.

Thousands are Muslims from Bosnia, refugees of the war there in the 1990s.

SAKIB DURACAK, Bosnian War Refugee:  We left everything what we have at that time and start from zero again.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Sakib Duracak, who trained in Bosnia as a construction engineer, started a small business in Utica rehabbing cheap, often crumbling, houses for refugees looking to build a new life.

SAKIB DURACAK:  A huge opportunity, because, at the time when we came in Utica, it’s a relatively, very dead and poor city.

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