BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Resettlement agencies in Western New York are trying to put an end to harmful stereotypes for people seeking asylum in the community.
This week, an asylum seeker from Venezuela was accused of raping a woman he knew in a Cheektowaga hotel room. Jennifer Connor from Justice for Migrant Families says people who are against helping asylum seekers could use this alleged crime as a reason not to welcome people in the community.
“To denigrate an entire community based on the alleged actions of one person, is never appropriate. It’s never fair,” Connor told News 4.
Over the last few months, resettlement agencies, including Jericho Road and Journey’s End, have been helping more than 500 asylum seekers who were bused to WNY from New York City. One of those asylum seekers, 26-year-old Jesus Guzman-Bermudez, is accused of raping a woman in a hotel room near the airport, with a young child present.
“At Jericho Road Community Health Center we are caring for the family involved in this complicated situation,” Myron Glick, CEO and founder of Jericho Road Community Health Center, said in a statement. “Our partner organization is assisting us by taking over the care of the incarcerated gentleman accused of this crime. We will focus on the woman and her child. While the investigation and criminal process are ongoing, we expect that the rights of all parties involved will be respected.”
Connor says people should not use this alleged incident as a reason to prevent people from seeking safety. She says that can be very harmful for those who are legally seeking safety and a better life here in the U.S.
“Everyone deserves to be safe and secure in their home, it doesn’t matter if you have lived here for a decade or just arrived. Violence against anyone is inexcusable,” she said. “We have a legal system in order to hold people accountable, who have caused people harm, but what we can’t do is use an alleged incident to perpetuate harm.”
Connor says despite any negative comments, there has been a lot of positive support from the community from people who are in support of what resettlement agencies do.
“We’re going to keep working with local governments coordinating with our non-profits, and with those volunteers and local residents, to ensure that newcomers to the state and to the region have support and services to thrive,” Connor said.
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