Ben Stiller joins state lawmakers to call for more funding for refugee programs, services

Amanda Fries

Originally published in Times Union

ALBANY – A New York City actor known for his comedic leads in Dodgeball and Night at the Museum joined state lawmakers Tuesday at the Capitol to call for increased funding to the state’s Enhanced Services to Refugees Program. 

Ben Stiller stood among lawmakers and refugee advocates and organizations to encourage New York to increase funding to its refugees program, funding which has helped fill the void left by the lack of federal support in recent years.

“We are here today because there is a global refugee crisis…There are now more than 70 million displaced people all over the world – people who are fleeing war and persecution and violence,” Stiller said. “These are people who are totally innocent, who just had their lives interrupted because they were unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Stiller is a goodwill ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, or the UNHCR, a global organization that works with refugees. 

Advocates say that the number of refugees resettling in the U.S. has declined, but organizations must be prepared to assist those who do resettle in the U.S. and ensure that services continue for those who have made this country home. 

Sen. Andrew Gounardes, D-Brooklyn, said the organizations that assist refugees as they settle into the various regions of New York need the state’s continued support. 

“We have an obligation to our fellow human beings to treat them with love and compassion regardless of who they are, where they come from, when they come here, what god they pray to, who they love, what they believe in and what the color of their skin is,” Gounardes said. “It is so incredibly important that New York steps up and says, ‘not on our watch.’ We are not going to turn our backs on people who are coming to this country with nothing but the shirts on their backs and not give them an opprotunity at the American dream.