County legislators share thoughts on Syrian refugees

Nov 20, 2015

With the national debate over bringing Syrian immigrants to this country heating up, it's also heating up in Erie County.

A large crowd packed into legislative chambers for Thursday's session.
Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news

There are plans to bring several hundred people fleeing the Syrian civil war here amid concerns of terror as in Paris a week ago. That showed up yesterday with a large protest supporting immigrants before the Erie County Legislature session; legislators are calling for a public meeting over safety.

"I don't know if this is a unique position I bring to the table. But for the last your years, my family and I have had living in our household a person from the Middle East, from Palestine," said Erie County Legislator Ted Morton.

"I have learned a lot in the last four years about the situation there on a first-hand basis, the struggles, the terror that goes on and the want and need for many people in that part of the world to come to America."

Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo had pushed hard to stop immigration and for a public hearing with sworn testimony from police and security officials about the risks and how immigrants are screened. As a packed house watched, legislators voted for a public meeting with the same witnesses.

At the protest, Journey's End Refugee Services Executive Director Karen Andolina Scott says her agency is notified a family is coming after years of being screened.

"The process has been set up for a very long time. Our volunteer agencies, the agencies that we receive our refugee from usually give us between two to three weeks notice of the specific people who are coming through the resettlement process," Andolina Scott said.

At the request of legislators, County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw will determine what the county spends in supporting refugees after they arrive. He's the son of Ukrainian refugees who came here in 1960.