It's the alleged word used that is being heard around the world. But for representatives of five Western New York agencies that serve immigrant and refugee populations, President Donald Trump's alleged description of Haiti, El Salvador and 54 African countries as "s***hole nations" is part of a greater attitude toward those who come to the United States. On Friday, they gathered to denounce the alleged words and tone from the White House.
Catholic Charities is one of the members of the Western New York Refugee and Asylee Consortium and hosted representatives of four other agencies. Jointly, they denounced President Trump's reported words and vowed to continue their efforts to make immigrants feel welcome.
"Treating all persons, whether they are native to our country or not, with dignity and respect is imperative to who we are as an organization," said Catholic Charities chief executive officer Dennis Walczyk. "Thus, we are deeply disappointed be remarks attributed to President Trump that were said during a meeting on immigration policies and we are discouraged that he fails to see the value and goodness of those who come from those countries and beyond."
Immigrants and refugees, advocates say, have played an important role in the economic renaissance of Buffalo.
"Diversity and multiculturalism are strengths and the improve all of our lives," said Eva Hassett, executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo. "Without immigrants, our population would decline faster, our workforce issues would be more difficult, our neighborhoods would be emptier and our lives would be less rich."
Hassett also addressed the claims by immigration critics, including Trump, that people entering this country are bringing with them crime and terror threats. She pointed to a Cato Institute study - noting the conservative reputation of the organization - that suggests Americans have odds of one in more than three billion per year to die in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee.
Other agencies represented at Friday's news conference included Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Services and Journey's End Refugee Services.
"We must raise our voices collectively as one, in a message of protest to President Trump so loud and profound that it cannot be ignored," said Maria "Apple" Domingo of Jewish Family Services. "We cannot do it alone. Together we will succeed. Such damaging and destructive remarks jeopardize each and every one of us and cannot stand."