State Department official says Buffalo 'fantastic' at refugee resettlement

Nov 20, 2013

Given the high number of refugees the federal government has helped resettle in Buffalo, officials with the U.S. State Department were in town this week to assess the program.

Each year, the U.S. takes in more than 70,000 refugees, which is more than all other countries combined.

"Supporting people who have gone through absolute horror overseas and need someplace safe to live is something that's gotten solid support from both the right and the left in American politics and continues to do so," says Simon Henshaw, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Simon Henshaw

Henshaw, a 28-year career diplomat who frequently travels to trouble spots around the world, says a significant number of refugees, more than 1,300, have come to Western New York.

"Buffalo is a fantastic example when it comes to resettling refugees and I think mostly what we're doing is learning lessons that can be used in the rest of the country," Henshaw says. 
Henshaw says he has seen tremendous effort from politicians, community leaders, businesses and universities in integrating refugees and taking advantage of the positives they bring, including rebuilding the region's shrinking population, starting new businesses and fixing up old neighborhoods. During his visit, Henshaw stopped at Buffalo's School 45 on Hoyt Street.

"I don't remember how many different nationalities they said, but it was 20-30 different nationalities. We watched the kids leaving the school all in different dresses, all with different ethnicity. And it was just so great to meet the leadership of the school...and listen how they're integrating, how they're working, how they're maintaining the cultures of the different students that are there and also making them apart of their community," said Henshaw.

Henshaw says the largest number of refugees are from Bhutan, Burma and Iraq. He says Buffalo is an example of where everybody works together to try and make it the best situation possible for new refugees.