By Paisley Skeith SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)- Refugees and immigrants in Syracuse have contributed 140 million dollars in federal taxes according to New American Economy, an advocacy group that says immigration helps the economy. Refugees have boosted the population of a city that has had a declining population for more than a decade.
More than ten-thousand refugees have settled in Syracuse over the last 12 years, according to Bhutan refugee Jay Subedi who opened a senior home care business that helps refugees. He says since then, refugees have generated 22 million dollars by starting new businesses.
“We have new businesses opening every month, every year, we have doctors, engineers, college students, high school valedictorians. Those people are moving to this community they are buying the homes here in the community they are spending their dollars in this community,” Subedi said.
The Syracuse population has been declining for decades, the Executive Director of the Northside Learning Center Mark Cass said. Refugees settling in Syracuse have helped the city regain its population.
“For the first time we saw an uptake in city population in the North Side of Syracuse due to the influx of newcomers. I think it really speaks to a rebirth of the city. I think the cultural gifts that people bring and the perspectives they bring are all true benefits to Syracuse and Central New York,” Cass said.
Subedi arrived in Syracuse in 2008 and began working at a Subway. Today, he is the CEO of TruCare connections, a senior home care service. 80 percent of Subedi’s clients are refugees and 20 percent are Americans.
”I feel that I am able to bridge the gap for the kids in most of the new Americans and immigrants population that have a linguistic cultural religious their values that will put them not to go to the nursing home,” Subedi said.
After opening his business, Subedi wanted to further his impact on the community by getting involved with the city government. Subedi is running for a seat on the Syracuse Common Council this year. He hopes to give a voice to the growing refugee population who are influencing local businesses, housing communities, the local economy, and politics.
“There are people making difference and working but we saw very slow growth and there are many opportunities where we can make a difference in this community that’s why i decided to run,” Subedi said.
Just 11 years ago Subedi came to Syracuse with his family after spending 18 years on a refugee camp in Nepal. At the age of 12, Subedi and his family were exiled from their home country Bhutan after the king said their tribe was opposing the government.
”There was no school for us, no cultural practice for us, no open religious practice for us, schools were banned, books were banned, we couldn’t marry our own cultural way,” Subedi added.
Many refugees in Syracuse come from similar backgrounds. Like Subedi, they arrive in Syracuse speaking little to no English. Several local businesses like the North Side Learning Center offer free English language courses to refugees. Courses are offered to people ages four to 84. Participants are from Somalia, Myanmar, Syria, and more.
250 are enrolled in their program, according to the Executive Director of the Northside Learning Center Mark Cass.
“Helping people on the road not only to self sufficiency, but actually to self actualization so they reach their fullest potential, they understand how to make their way in a new country and a new world. It’s really about helping them,” Cass said.
Places like the Northside Learning Center help ease the refugees integration into American society. This integration isn’t always easy, Subedi said. He is well-aware of the negative connotations that some associate with refugees.
“There’s some hate, there’s some rescission, there’s some other things that goes on but in general I think there’s a good acceptance and we are here to be good people,” he added.
The November fifth Common Council election is just over six months away. If elected, Subedi will represent the North Side, Sedgwick, and part of Eastwood. He hopes to bring diversity to Syracuse and New York State by encouraging young immigrants to get involved in the local government.
”My whole focus is to work with the families, work with the community, get more people to the jobs, increase the businesses,” he said.
He hopes to help refugees and immigrants integrate into society faster, he added.