As New York City and the state attempt to find solutions to house and process the surge of migrants arriving in the country and then sent to the state after the expiration of Title 42, which ended COVID restriction on asylum seekers, upstate communities are taking preventative actions to bar or dissuade the state from sending migrants.
During an interview with Spectrum News NY1 in Washington D.C. Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said more than 71,000 migrants have come to New York state in the last year, with thousands more arriving in the last few weeks, and the volume of people has become a challenge for New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams.
“The city has done an incredible job trying to find places to house them, but they are at capacity,” Hochul said. “They are in a desperate situation. We have been in contact with counties, there are other counties out there who are looking at campuses, shuttered psychiatric facilities and large spaces we can put up [large-scale tents].”
Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott Horton on Friday declared a five-day State of Emergency in the county after Adams began to send migrants upstate due to a lack of housing in the city.
Horton said they have not received any word that any migrants were to be sent to Fulton County, but said the order was a way to preemptively protect the county. He added that the county will review it every five days, but he hopes Hochul, Adams and the federal government will see the error of their ways and come up with something else.
“I think the writing is on the wall and we want to join our other upstate counties, and other counties throughout the state, that are concerned about this,” he said. “And it’s a way of protecting our people and sending a message that this is not the solution.”
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon was one of the latest county executives to issue an executive order Thursday that barred the transportation of migrants to the county. Greene and Sullivan counties had already declared states of emergency.
State Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, said migrants were relocated in two locations Thursday in Sullivan County amid a few protesters. Oberacker said issuing states of emergency are one of the few ways local municipalities can assert their home rule.
“As a former town supervisor, I think it’s prudent for those that are being represented at the local level to have their officials have in place a plan, and apparently Fulton [County] felt like that,” the Republican said. “I’m open to any and all tools that take the authority and bring it back to the local municipality, absolutely.”
Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman, a Democrat, said he has no similar plans for the county, but the county does not have the space or services available to accept any migrants.
“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said, adding he questioned the legality of the other counties’ orders. “The state [and] New York City are not looking to force counties that don’t have the bandwidth to take migrants in. The communication I’ve received from the governor’s office is that they are looking for volunteer communities. You can go on the governor’s website and there’s even a button you can click if you want to be a host community.”
Saratoga County followed Fulton County by also issuing a state of emergency on Friday. In a statement, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Kusnierz Jr. said the county did so to be eligible for any state and federal funding that may become available.
“Saratoga County has long been and continues to be a welcoming and diverse community, however this type of rapid population increase would overburden our social services, public health, emergency services, and other departments that are already dealing with a higher volume of cases and workload than they have in years past,” the Republican said in a statement.
Montgomery County was also contacted about whether they would declare similar states of emergency, but did not immediately respond.
Earlier this week, Republicans in both the state Assembly and state Senate introduced a package of bills aimed at combating the migrant crisis. One bill would prohibit the housing of migrants in school gyms, a method currently being used in New York City.
Another would protect vulnerable populations, such as homeless veterans and domestic violence victims, living in temporary housing from being displaced by housing migrants, which was introduced after it was falsely reported homeless veterans were displaced by migrants in the Hudson Valley.
Horton said he believes that since the federal government created this problem, the onus is on them to solve it in a humane fashion.
“Our sheriff’s department is understaffed, has been for several years now. Our hospitals are strained. We can’t deal with that,” he said. “And then look at the timing … the timing is just before our recreational season right in Fulton County, which is so important to our economy.”
Tyler A. McNeil contributed to the story.