Pittsfield identified as good place for refugee resettlement

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2016 file photo, Syrian refugees inside the border wait to be approved to get into Jordan, in the Hadalat reception area, near the northeastern Jordanian border with Syria, and Iraq, near the town of Ruwaished, Jordan. The Senate will consider new rigorous screening procedures for Syrian and Iraqi refugees seeking to enter the United States as national security looms large for voters in an election year. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh, File)

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (NEWS10) – The Obama Administration announced plans for the U.S. to accept 110,000 refugees from around the world, and several could be coming to a local community.

Millions of people are being displaced from their homes by civil war and violence in their countries, but some could soon find refuge in Pittsfield.

“This is our world to share; this is not our world just for us,” Debra Aylor, of Pittsfield, said.

Aylor hopes to share her community with refugees from the Middle East.

“All these people can’t help what they’re going through,”Aylor said. “They shouldn’t starve. They shouldn’t be denied medical.”

About 15 to 18 refugee families from Syria and Iraq could find a new home in Pittsfield. Council Vice President John Krol said the city was identified as a good place for resettlement.

Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts, or JFS, is leading the initiative.

“We do have an infrastructure, basically, that is able to, you know, have 60,000 people,” Krol said. “Our population today is about 43,000 people.”

Krol said Pittsfield has a declining population, a large housing stock, and several unfilled jobs. But it also has a long history of welcoming immigrants.

“The character of our city is built upon immigrants – the Polish, the Italians, the Irish,” he said.

In recent years, the city welcomed refugees from the former Soviet Union and became a home for immigrants from South America and Africa. All of whom, Krol said, have immersed themselves in the city.

“Be small business owners in some cases,” he said.

Krol feels Syrian and Iraqi refugees would do the same.

“They’re going to have children who go to school with all our children, enriching their lives, enriching our own culture,” he said.

Aylor wants to look forward to that enrichment.

“They have so many values and beautiful things to give all of our community, and it’s time to open our arms to them,” she said.

Members of the community will get to share their concerns and ask questions at a public forum at 6 p.m. Monday at the Berkshire Athenaeum.

Krol said the response so far has been positive, and it’s likely JFS will go forward with the program. If so, refugees could start arriving before the end of the year.

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