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Upstate New York prepares to house migrants

 Orange County officials say two busloads of migrants from New York City arrived at The Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh, NY on May 11, 2023.
Orange County officials say two busloads of migrants from New York City arrived at The Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh, NY on May 11, 2023.

With states of emergency declared in Orange, Rockland, Rensselaer and Broome counties, leaders in other municipalities are weighing in on the prospect of admitting asylum seekers as Governor Kathy Hochul looks to Washington for assistance.

Hochul is calling on President Biden to send federal resources to New York to help the state deal with an increase in asylum seekers as a federal immigration policy that allowed authorities to quickly expel migrants has expired. The letter between the Democrats comes after Hochul issued an executive order allowing the state to spend money to address the situation and mobilize 1,500 National Guard members. Thousands of migrants have already arrived in New York City and plans to move some them upstate have led to opposition in parts of the Hudson Valley and the Capital Region.

Democratic Albany County Executive Dan McCoy is watching and waiting.

"What we're doing is trying to come up with a plan," McCoy said. "It's unfortunate what happened to Rockland County, in Orange County with no notice and we can't have that."

Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus says the county was caught off guard when two busloads of migrants arrived in Newburgh Thursday. On Friday, Orange County and the Town of Newburgh filed lawsuits against The Crossroads Hotel and New York City over housing the migrants at the hotel.

Rockland County has gone to court to stop New York City from sending asylum seekers there.

The governor's actions have Republican Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, who has declared a state of emergency there, fuming.

"It didn't go unnoticed by me that the first two counties they tried to assault were led by GOP county executives, they didn't send them to Westchester County, where they've declared themselves a sanctuary," said McLaughlin. "They didn't send them to any of the sanctuary cities. No, they sent them to the GOP-led counties on purpose and who did they send? Not even families, they send fighting age men into a hotel. What do you think the outcome is going to be that long term?"

Westchester County Executive George Latimer, a Democrat, says his county will welcome some of the asylum seekers.

Hochul is requesting the Biden administration direct the Department of Defense and the National Park Service to immediately build and operate temporary shelters on federal lands and property to house individuals seeking political asylum.

Murad Awawdeh of the New York Immigration Coalition tells WAMC people should not be used as political pawns and bussed randomly to different parts of the country.

"What we're fighting for is for the mayor of New York City to be planning, coordinating, consulting with municipalities and local community-based organizations to ensure that folks are being welcomed and received in other areas of the state, if they want to go, they're moving people upstate, or to other regions. This also does not solve New York City’s shelter crisis," Awawdeh said.

Republican Congressman Marc Molinaro of New York’s 19th district is calling for a federal emergency.

"We're seeing what's occurring both at the border and our communities, who doesn't have some outright concern and compassion for what's going on," said Molinaro. "And the president needs to take action and bring a border security package, encourage a border security package through Senate, and get us to a deal. But this is just a growing and growing catastrophe that frankly, needs coordination and competency and it's getting none of those things today."

Hochul says New York City has exceeded capacity in its shelter system which includes temporary housing and support for more than 36,700 migrants at 120 locations.

Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan says Albany will welcome migrants if and when they arrive.

"I think that the states of emergency, I think some of the political, the polarization of this, it really is dehumanizing," Sheehan said. These are human beings who are here legally, we need to ensure that they can work. We need to ensure that we can connect them to job opportunities. Housing is a challenge. We understand that, but it is not an insurmountable challenge. And so we owe it to ourselves and to our communities to find a way to ensure that we are able to welcome families, allow them to get settled, and just as our families then built wealth and started businesses."

Officials in Greene and Washington counties say they don't have the facilities to accept migrants but are keeping an eye on the situation. Warren County isn't expecting to see any migrants and has no plan in place at the moment to deal with any influx.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.