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Local Groups Call for Meeting with Sarno on Refugee Issue


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — Several local organizations are calling on Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno to hold a meeting to discuss what he is calling a refugee crisis in the city.

Friday afternoon, representatives from several local groups, including Jewish Family Services, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, Council of Churches of Western Massachusetts, and the Mass. Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, held a press conference to publicly ask for that meeting.

Earlier this week, Sarno sent a letter to the U.S. State Department asking the agency to deny any request made by or on behalf of refugee settlement organizations because he was concerned that Springfield had become a “dumping ground” for refugees.

In a joint statement, those groups in attendance at Friday’s press conference say that there were “inflammatory statements and factual errors” in that letter regarding refugee settlements.

Archbishop Timothy Paul, President and CEO of the Council of Churches of Western Massachusetts, says in a statement, “We are concerned that Mayor Sarno’s press release regarding refugee resettlement in Springfield reveals a broader attack on our city’s poorest residents. We have come together in hopes of working with the Mayor and his administration to ensure that this is city for everyone,” says Archbishop  Paul.

Mayor Sarno says he’s willing to meet with the coalition.

He cites what he calls “three glaring examples of where much improvement is needed to be rendered by these agencies.”

Mayor Sarno says, “Their direct housing placement of refugees require a certificate of occupancy issued by our trained city housing inspectors, which should be paid through their program to generate proper conditions for these refugees.”

Sarno also calls for better coordination with the Springfield School department.

And the mayor advocates enhanced, longer and supportive social services to the refugees, not just 90 days.

Mayor Sarno also says he stands by his call for a moratorium on refugees coming into Springfield.

Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, Director of Catholic Charities says the coalition too  is looking forward to the meeting with the mayor.

“Our biggest goal is to get to the root of not only why this is happening but also to address all the marginalized communities in Springfield,” says Buckley-Brawner.

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