Yesterday afternoon, Syracuse.com shared Wendy Long’s response to criticism of her comments following a visit to the Northside of Syracuse on August 11. Ms. Long’s original commentary on the neighborhood included a series of inaccurate statements about the character of the neighborhood and the residents who live there. Her response yesterday was in a similar vein. Ms. Long claims refugees enter this country without thorough screening, which is simply untrue. Every person seeking refugee status undergoes a rigorous screening process carried out by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and various U.S. security agencies. In fact, less than 1% of the global refugee population qualifies for refugee status after this process is complete. We as an agency play no role in granting refugee status to individuals; our role is providing support for those who arrive here.
Catholic Charities believes that everyone—including people of every faith tradition—is worthy of dignity and respect. Ms. Long’s comments deeply offend many individuals in our city and our core values as an agency.
We know the reality of challenges on the Northside. We live it every day as we work with residents and community members to ensure all individuals have their best chance at success. We know the enormous potential of recent refugees and all those we work with throughout Onondaga County. Syracuse is a city with a proud immigrant heritage: Germans and Italians on the Northside, Irish, Polish and Ukranian in Tipperary Hill, and many other groups who have left indelible signatures on our region. We will continue to foster stability and independence for all individuals in Syracuse in all stages of life, as we have done since Catholic Charities of Onondaga County was established in 1923.
We applaud those neighbors, partners, organizations and elected officials, Mayor Minor and Congressman Katko, who have responded with dignity to Long’s uninformed and inflammatory comments. We appreciate their defense of the Northside and the refugee population in Syracuse.