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Onondaga, Oswego county emergency orders bar housing migrants from NYC

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon issued an emergency order Thursday, May 18, 2023 in preparation for a potential migrant influx.
Ava Pukatch
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon issued an emergency order Thursday, May 18, 2023 in preparation for a potential migrant influx.

Onondaga County and Oswego County both issued emergency orders this week barring any municipality in the county to make contracts with anyone looking to transport migrants or asylum seekers to locations within the county.

County Executive Ryan McMahon said Thursday the county is already anticipating 1,900 refugees over the next 12 to 16 months as part of the refugee resettlement program.

"Today we have no capacity, period, until we know we're going to be able to meet the commitments of 1,900 new residents in our community and understand what a potential organic migrant flow would look like," McMahon said. "We are preparing for organic migration in itself. That if any of the individuals come directly into our community, we have to shelter those, we are preparing for that. What we are not prepared for is another entity, another government to just drop off migrants into our community or to work around our infrastructure to drop off migrants."

McMahon pointed to ajob ad for a company he said working with New York City to find housing for migrants which was looking to hire Syracuse employees — saying he believes they don't have partners in good faith.

"When you have one of the main vendors who puts a job ad and their job is to place migrants into hotels in Onondaga County, I think that's a sign that New York City was not acting in good faith when they spoke to us last week saying that they weren't looking to do these types of things," McMahon said.

Other central New York counties with emergency orders include Oneida, Cortland and Oswego.

Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup issued an emergency order Wednesday.

“With the ongoing crisis across our country and New York City’s recent attempts to transport and house migrants and asylum seekers in counties, we believe this is a necessary action to ensure the humane treatment of these individuals and safeguard our taxpayers from shouldering the economic and social burden of controversial policies from Washington, Albany and New York City,” Weatherup said. “We empathize with the plight of migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom came here because of misguided policies that welcomed them without considering the potential outcome, but we cannot ask the taxpayers of Oswego County to pay for transportation, housing and other costs.”

The New York State Association of Counties is asking for the federal government to help find housing or consider enacting a federal state of emergency.

“This cannot be solved at the county level,” Weatherup said. “We do not have the resources, capacity or authority to provide a solution. Our state and federal governments need to step up.”

Inan interview with Spectrum News, Gov. Kathy Hochul said they were exploring all available state properties.

"Let's analyze them, let's see whether they're temporary short term, whether it becomes longer term," Hochul said. "Clearly a SUNY campus lends itself to immediate help, but long-term, we have to have it free by August. So, what happens in August? So these are the questions we're asking right now. We are looking at every possible property in the State of New York to help have a relief valve for the City of New York."

McMahon said logistically, he doesn't think it's a good plan.

"[New York City] has received a lot of funding for this," McMahon said. "They received $1 billion. They received FEMA funding. They'll likely receive more FEMA funding. This is a situation that they're better equipped to handle. I feel for what's happening there, but we're doing our share in the macro level with our refugee resettlement program."

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-Canandaigua) called the proposal a misguided decision.

"Governor Hochul should immediately clarify that SUNY facilities will not be used to house illegal immigrants and take further action to make clear that those who travel here illegally will not receive taxpayer-subsidized housing under New York City’s “right-to-shelter” policy, which was never intended to be applied in this context," Tenney said. "Upstate New York counties that stand for the rule of law should not be forced to pay the price for those that have embraced disastrous and illegal sanctuary city policies."

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay also critiqued the proposal.

"The migrant crisis gets more chaotic by the day," Barclay said. "[Wednesday's] reports that Gov. Hochul may house migrants at Upstate SUNY campuses only add more confusion to a situation that Democrats have mismanaged at every stage and at every level of government."

Holly Liapis, press secretary for SUNY, said SUNY is assessing what resources are available.

"At Governor Hochul’s direction, we are assessing whether there are SUNY resources available to help with the arrival of asylum seekers," Liapis said.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.