The Buffalo, New York city center at dusk

Introduction

Buffalo, New York has long been a friendly destination for immigrants and refugees. According to the Partnership for the Public Good, while Buffalo has a low proportion of foreign-born residents compared to other cities, it has a high percentage of refugees. The city has become one of the top places for refugee settlement in America. “From 2000 to 2010, the Buffalo-Niagara Metro Area saw a 33% rise in the foreign-born population, growing from 4.4% of the total population in 2000 to 6.0% in 2010.

Buffalo is located in Erie County. Nearly 10,000 refugees from war, natural disasters, and from prosecution resettled in Erie County from 2003 to 2014. Currently, the county “receives slightly over one-third of the total refugee flow into the state. Many refugees also settle in Buffalo from other parts of the United States.

Between 2003-2006, Canada (Buffalo is near the Canadian border across from Toronto) and Yemen were the leading countries of origin for foreigners. Between 2007 to 2012, most refugees to Buffalo came from Burma and India.

Between 2000 and 2013, the foreign-born population, ages 18 to 34, in the region grew by 75 percent – even though the national growth rate for that age group was just about 6 percent.

Beautiful african female student with group of international students outdoor in the city in the summer

Immigration and Students

The number of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students in the Buffalo Public School System has “increased from 2,539 in 2004 to 4,307 in 2014 with the number of languages spoken rising from 46 to 63.” The variety of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes is another reason Buffalo is an attractive location for immigrants. Teachers and staff work to understand the traumatic experiences their children have gone through.

The top 10 languages spoken in public schools in Buffalo, other than English in 2014, were:

  1. Spanish
  2. Karen
  3. Arabic
  4. Nepali
  5. Burmese
  6. Somali
  7. Bengali
  8. Swahili
  9. French
  10. Other

In prior years, many students spoke Russian, Vietnamese, and Albanian.

Oldtimer Car

The history of immigration in Buffalo

According to Buffalo-Toronto Public Radio – New York, according to data from the US Census, has always been an attractive destination for immigrants. This is in part due to Ellis Island, one of the most heavily used entry points in the US. In the olden days, people who landed at Ellis Island traveled to Buffalo via the Erie Canal. Now they can reach Buffalo through public and private transportation.

Buffalo was originally laid out by the Dutch and was settled by northeastern Americans of English descent. New settlers in Buffalo were Germans, Irish, Poles, Swedes, Italians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, and Armenians. Newer settlers came from Puerto Rico, Burma, Thailand, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Pakistan. African-Americans reached Buffalo as slaves and as free people. Many African-Americans came to Buffalo from the American South.

Currently, Buffalo “(mostly) recognizes and celebrates the contributions of its various immigrant groups.” May Shogan of the International Institute of Buffalo says, “Grant Street and Hertel Avenue are becoming more vibrant with a refugee and immigrant presence. You can travel the world in your own community. The world is changing.”

“In regard to the most recent refugee crisis in Syria, Shogan notes, ‘International events should be of interest to Americans and others in the world because we are affected by them. We can’t turn a blind eye to the effects of our policies in other places. Our ancestors, in many cases, might have been considered refugees [rather than immigrants] because of the situations in their home countries.’”

A few notable developments in the line of immigration to Buffalo include:

  • 1800. Joseph Ellicott, employed by the Holland Land Co., begins plans to layout Buffalo.
  • 1830. Buffalo has 8,435 native residents of European descent, 48 foreign-born, and 178 free people of color.
  • 1840. Irish immigrants, escaping the famine, settle in the Flats and First Ward. German Lutherans also come to Buffalo.
  • 1850. Numerous German and Polish Jews arrive.1860 Over 1.6 million Irish-born people reside in the United States.
  • 1869. Jaime Nuno, a writer of the Mexican National Anthem, moves to WNY.
  • 1870. Polish immigration to Buffalo begins in earnest.
  • 1880. A wave of Ashkenazi Jews from diaspora settlements (Russia, Poland, Belarus) arrives in Buffalo, fleeing pogroms and economic hardship.
  • 1890. Italian immigration to Buffalo begins in modest numbers; Polish immigration surges.
  • 1892. Ellis Island opens in New York Harbor, replacing the outmoded Castle Garden. Immigrants find their way up the Erie Canal to Buffalo or overland through Pennsylvania and Canada.
  • 1900. Armenian emigration is sparked by anti-Christian pogroms in their homeland.
  • 1910. Three-quarters of Buffalo’s population is foreign-born.
  • 1915. Near East Relief forms in Niagara Falls to aid Syrians and Armenians after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
  • 1920. The African-American Great Migration is well underway, with those fleeing the Jim Crow south heading to northern cities for the hope of greater opportunity.1924. The Johnson Immigration Act drastically cuts immigration quotas.
  • 1925. More than 36,000 Armenians arrive in the United States between 1920 and 1930.
  • 1930. Italian settlement in Buffalo peaks at around 20,000; untenable farming conditions, few jobs, and economic disparity drive them.
  • 1934. International Institute becomes independent from the YWCA
  • 1942. The Bracero Program brings Mexican workers to the States to stem the agricultural labor shortage during WWII.
  • 1952. Puerto Rico becomes a US Commonwealth.
  • 1965. The Immigration Act is amended, removing specific nationality quotas, but still including a ceiling for entrance from the eastern/western hemisphere.
  • 1980. The Refugee Act passed, allowing those fleeing persecution to be classed differently than other immigrants, paving the way for Buffalo and other American cities to become home to large groups of immigrants from South Asia, Africa, and other areas.

Over 16,000 refugees have settled in Western New York since 2002.

Sign of Honorary Consulate General of France.

Consulates in Buffalo

Currently, there are several foreign representations/consulates in Buffalo. These are:

Czech Republic – Consulate

The consulate of the Czech Republic in Buffalo is located at 10545 Main Street and can be contacted by telephone on (716) 759 6078 as well as by email buffalo@honorary.mzv.cz and zavrel@meaus.com.

The hours of operations are weekdays between 9 am and 8 pm. The consulate may be closed on some US and Czech public holidays. The consulate services include:

  • Visa and passport processing
  • Document legalization
  • People should contact the office to confirm which consular services are currently available.

France – Consulate

Its consulate is located at 32, Admiral Road, and can be contacted by telephone on (716) 903 7441 as well as by email pascalsoar@aol.com. Inquiries about the hours and days of operation should be made in advance. The consulate doesn’t accept visa applications.

Germany – Consulate

The consulate is located at 135 Delaware Avenue and can be contacted by telephone on (716) 854 4010 as well as by email buffalo@hkdiplo.de and jcampbell@prattcollard.com. The German consulate is open to visitors on weekdays – by appointment. Visitors should call for the exact hours of operation. The German consulate doesn’t accept visa applications. It does issue a passport and provides other consular services.

Italy – Consulate

The vice-consulate of Italy in Buffalo is located at 1201 Pine Avenue and can be contacted by telephone on (716) 856 3626 as well as by email viceconsolatobuffalo@gmail.com.

The hours of operation are between 10 am and 4 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays – except for US and Italian holidays. “The vice-consulate may provide a range of consular services such as visa and passport processing as well as document legalization, but note that honorary consulates typically offer limited consular services.”

Buffalo City Hall, the seat for municipal government in the City of Buffalo, New York.

Buffalo City Hall – Office of New Americans Team

Buffalo City Hall is located at 65 Niagara Square. One of the services at City Hall is the Office of New Americans Team whose director is Jessica Lazarin. The Office was established by Mayor Byron W. Brown in April of 2015. “Buffalo is the only city, outside of New York City, in New York state with an office dedicated to addressing the integration and well-being of the city’s growing refugee and immigrant population.”

“Director Lazarin develops policies that promote access to city services, including bringing resources to Buffalo that have been implemented by the New York State Office for New Americans. She is the City’s contact for collaborative efforts addressing economic, educational, and vocational opportunities for the immigrant and refugee communities that also include the city’s incumbent Hispanic and African American communities.

Her office facilitates outreach to the community to promote access to already-existing programs and she looks to expand partnerships with Buffalo Public Schools, Adult Education programs, the City’s resettlement, and post-resettlement agencies and local organizations to address community needs.

She also facilitates the promotion of cultural events in the Buffalo and Western New York immigrant community, such as Immigrant Heritage Month and World Refugee Day.”

Sign of University at Buffalo at North Campus.

Colleges in Buffalo that attract international students

The three largest public post-secondary schools In Buffalo are:

The University at Buffalo provides International Student Services. These services include:

  • Helping new students
  • Immigration and status help for F-1 student, J-1 student, J-1 student intern, US visas, travel visas, J-1 scholars, H-1B employees, TN employees, and permanent residents.
  • Social security cards
  • Income Tax
  • Life in Buffalo
  • International orientation and welcome services

Buffalo State College provides international services. Erie Community College also provides international services.

The total enrollment of the three public institutions combined is approximately 54,000 students.

Private schools in Erie County, where Buffalo is located include:

Ethnic Festivals in and around Buffalo

Ethnic festivals help people from all walks of life feel part of the Buffalo community. Information about many of these festivals can be found on their websites and social media pages. Some of the major international and ethnic festivals in Buffalo (there are adjustments due to the COVID-19 crisis), according to Only in Your State, are the following:

  • The Italian Heritage Festival. This festival is usually held over several days in mid-July. It will be moving to the Outer Harbors.
  • Buffalo German Festival. This festival takes place on Labor Day week on Harlem Road in Cheektowaga.
  • Buffalo Irish Festival. This festival takes place at the Outer Harbor from August 25-August 27. There’s also a St. Patrick’s Day parade.
  • Dyngus Day Festival. This celebration is held on the Monday after Easter in South Buffalo
  • Lebanese Festival. The Nickel City Smokers takes place at 2040 Wehrle Drive in Williamsville on July 28.
  • The Macedonian Festival Buffalo includes dance, music, and cultural exhibits. It takes place at 4785 Lake Avenue in Blasdell from July 10-12.
  • The Buffalo Greek Fest is hosted by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. There’s great Greek food and dance, “church tours, and special cultural exhibits from June 2-4 at 146 West Utica.”
  • Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade. The Parade is held on August 18-19. The parade starts from the City Hall Steps.
  • Taste of Diversity “is held on Grant Street on June 24th. This festival gives you an opportunity to try authentic cuisine from around the world, featuring vendors from Burma, Colombia, Iraq, Liberia, Poland, Puerto Rico, Sudan, and more!”
Business People Success Achievement City Concept

How immigration in Buffalo helps foster growth

One article in Buffalo News emphasized how immigration in Buffalo will help with the growth of the city. The article emphasized that Buffalo could become like its counterpart, Toronto, which has seen population and economic growth by making itself a destination for direct and secondary immigrants. Other US cities, such as Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Detroit, have also benefited from making their cities attractive to immigrants. “The Pew Charitable Trusts reported earlier this year [2019] that more than a quarter of Philadelphians are immigrants or have a foreign-born parent. Their presence, it reported, is largely responsible for the city’s growth since 2006.”

Some Buffalo successes due to immigration are the neighborhoods in and near Grant Street, Hertel Avenue, and the Broadway-Fillmore area.

According to Dyssegaard Kallic (director of the Fiscal Policy Institute’s Immigration Research Initiative) and Eeva Hasset (executive director of the International Institute of Buffalo) “Somali, Burmese, Hmong and Bosnian refugee communities find jobs quickly and make substantial gains in income over time. Three of the four refugee groups studied had higher rates of homeownership than U.S.-born families after 10 years. We should be recruiting people such as those.”

Buffalo should be attractive to immigrants because of its land values and comparatively low land values.

The Buffalo New story adds, “Buffalo is also a welcoming town. Its government, its service agencies and its residents are known for opening their arms to refugees and other immigrants. Here, we seem to understand the human imperative to help others and also that, in so doing, we help ourselves, as well.”

USCIS

USCIS offices

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has different offices for many different functions including the following offices which supplement the agency’s website.

  • Field Offices handle scheduled interviews and some types of applications. They also provide limited information and services that supplement those on the field office website.
    • The Buffalo Field Office is located at 306 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo NY. 14202. The office is open from 8 am to 3 pm, Monday-Friday.
  • Application Support Centers (ASCs) provide fingerprinting and related services.
    • The Buffalo ASC is located at 306 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202. The office is open from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday-Friday.
  • Asylum Offices handle scheduled interviews for asylum-related issues only
    • Buffalo asylum issues are handled at Newark. 1200 Wall Street West, Fourth Floor, Lyndhurst, NJ 07071
  • Service Centers receive and process a large variety of applications and petitions.
    • The Service Center nearest to Buffalo is in Vermont.
  • National Benefits Center receives and processes a large variety of applications and petitions.
  • Our National Records Center receives and processes FOIA requests and applications for genealogy information.
Immigration Lawyers

Speak with an experienced immigration lawyer today

Herman Legal Group’s Buffalo office is located in Downtown Buffalo

We are generally open M-F from 8 am to 8 pm and Sat from 9 am to 2 pm. Please call first as the COVID-19 crisis affects our hours of operation and whether we meet with people at our office or remotely. We also have numerous offices in Ohio and in other states.

Know that the Herman Legal Group has the experience and skills to help you and your loved ones seek admission into the United States and seek a change of immigration status. We represent clients in agency hearings and adversarial proceedings. Our lawyers speak different languages and understand different cultures. We work with the full range of immigration officials in Buffalo. Our lawyers and staff also help immigrants and refugees adjust to American and to Buffalo. For help with any immigration issues including applying for a green card or a deportation hearing, call Herman Legal Group at 1 (800) 808-4013 or complete our contact form to speak with us.

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