Immigrants contribute billions to Upstate NY

By Chris Lavelle, Upstate NY1
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 12:03 PM EDT

Reporter Chris Lavelle looks at how immigrants are embracing and benefiting Upstate New York communities as part of the Spectrum News special "Immigration in America.” Watch more on Spectrum News’ hour-long special at 7 p.m. with live town hall at 8 p.m. May 24 | 7 p.m. May 26 | 7 p.m. May 29.

In cities across Upstate NY, immigrants and refugees are driving economic growth and combatting population decline.

As a study conducted by New American Economy for CenterState CEO points out, immigrants in the metro Buffalo and Syracuse areas are contributing billions to the local economies. Dominic Robinson, V.P. of Economic Inclusion at CenterState CEO, said they commissioned the study of the economic impact of immigrants and refugees in Syracuse and Buffalo when they started to think about how they could better understand the impact they’re already having and the potential impact they could make.

The study was done prior to the current presidential administration taking office, so it was not a response to the rhetoric coming out of Washington. That said, officials across Upstate NY are happy to share the study’s findings, according to Shelly Callahan of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees.

“Refugees and immigrants came here and believed in this city when the people that lived here maybe didn’t," she said. "There was a real self-esteem problem with Utica and a lot of Upstate cities that had been abandoned by manufacturing, and they came here, they believed in the city, they invested in this city and they’ve made it their home.”

For many foreign-born residents, Upstate cities might not have been where they thought they would end up living, but many of them are making the most of it, and their new home cities are benefiting.  

Louise Sano, owner of Global Villages in Buffalo, said you learn to accept everything life throws at you.

“I think life did not give me a chance to really think about where I want to live, because when you are uprooted from your own home, you start over again," he said.