Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Migrant crisis; County responds

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Warren County on Tuesday issued an emergency declaration regarding Governor Kathy Hochul’s plans to address the influx of migrant asylum seekers coming from the United States’ southern border to New York City by sending some of them to upstate counties.

Warren County Administrator John Taflan tells The Chronicle the emergency declaration sends a message to hotels, or other places that could be contacted by New York City to accommodate migrants.

“It tells them, they can’t do it without County approval, because it impacts the county and county services as well.”

The declaration was issued by Board Chair Kevin Geraghty.

It does not require full board approval Mr. Taflan said. Similar to the emergency declaration issued by the County Chair during the Covid pandemic, it must be reviewed and issues every five days.

The declaration notes any relocation efforts by New York City or the state “without the prior knowledge and consent of the County, and without any effort to coordinate, plan, manage and fund such a relocation will cause a similar humanitarian disaster within Warren County,” to what was declared by the Governor, statewide.

New task force, ‘just in case’

Mr. Taflan said he has formed a new task force to address the possibility of migrant asylum seekers being sent to Warren County.

“We had our first meeting today,” Mr. Taflan said on Monday. “I also participated in the Governor’s group call to counties today.

“There is no belief that anyone will be bussed here today,” Mr. Taflan said. “There are no indicators that any asylum seekers are headed toward Warren County from New York City.

“The governor said at the meeting, if there is any movement, counties will be notified ahead of time, at least a week ahead.”

“As a county, we are still preparing for anything that might happen,” Mr. Taflan said.

“Our biggest issue would be places to house these people, and being able to provide the services necessary.”

He said New York City is receiving about 900 people a day from the southern border. “They had 75,000 in the city last I heard, but that’s got to be more by now, with 900 coming every day.”

Mr. Taflan said, Governor Hochul promised, “no school-age children,” among those being sent to upstate counties.”

He said, “The Governor said on the call, before they send anyone, they are doing the vetting there in New York, background checks, and checking for criminal records.”

The Warren County task force members so far include county department leaders from Social Services, Public Health, Emergency Preparedness, the Sheriff’s Department, Planning Department, and a community member who has experience with assimilating migrants into communities, Mr. Taflan said.

He said. “I’ll plan to expand that to include Glens Falls Hospital, Hudson Headwaters and some other organizations.”

Public input to Board

Community members at Friday’s monthly Board of Supervisors meeting spoke for and against allowing migrants into the county.

Those against it questioned the strain on housing facilities, hotels — especially during tourist season — and other services such as law enforcement and schools, as well as safety risks.

Those speaking in support noted humanitarian issues and potential economic gains as seen in Utica, for example.

Washington County: ‘No emergency; no help we can offer’

Washington County is not declaring a state of emergency, “at this time,” Board Chair Bob Henke of Argyle said.

He said he doesn’t anticipate migrants being sent to the County, “so it’s not an emergency situation.”

“We only have two or three hotels in the entire county. Any available rooms, we are putting our own homeless folks into. Our resources are already committed to our neediest residents.”

He said, “One of our biggest expenses is putting our homeless people out of the county because we don’t have the resources here.”

Mr. Henke added, “Certainly we are aware of the situation.

He said Governor Kathy Hochul’s Monday call “didn’t make me feel any better. It seems things are being decided minute by minute.”

“We’ve certainly talked about it at the County. I put together a working group of the County Attorney, County Administrator, Vice Chair and me to see what our stance might be.”
— Cathy DeDe

Stefanik blasts migrant plan, says Hochul eyes SUNY facilities

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik released the following statement after she said local county officials reached out to her “over Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to use SUNY campuses and facilities all across NY-21, to house unvetted illegal immigrants sent up from New York City, which has been overwhelmed by Biden’s Border Crisis and further exacerbated by its sanctuary city policies.”

Rep. Stefanik wrote, the plan is “disgusting and shameful.”

“Let me be very clear,” she wrote. “Upstate New York is not a sanctuary city to clean up Joe Biden’s catastrophic border crisis.

“We respect the rule of law and we oppose any attempt to use our taxpayer-funded facilities to be used for free housing for illegal immigrants.”

“This decision does nothing to address the Biden Border Crisis and only incentivizes more illegal immigration. This is why House Republicans passed the strongest border bill in our nation’s history.”

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