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'It's a federal issue': Onondaga County Sheriff said he cannot stop migrant buses

Sheriff Toby Shelley speaks to reporters January 11, 2023 about the reopening of the pistol permit office.
Ava Pukatch
In this file photo, Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley speaks to reporters during a press conference on January 11, 2023.

Onondaga County could see an influx of migrants as buses prepare to head from New York City.

Following the expiration of Title 42. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon issued an emergency order barring any migrant transfers and housing in Onondaga County. Whether that order will stand is now being tested.

Town of Salina Supervisor Nick Paro said he was contacted over the weekend by New York City Mayor Eric Adams' administration, notifying him that a bus of migrants would be making their way up from the city to reside in a hotel in Salina. This would be a violation of that emergency order, but county law enforcement might not be able to stop it.

Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley said this is not the sheriff's office’s problem.

“As far as I know the sheriff has no authority to turn that bus around,” Shelly said. “It’s truly a federal issue.”

Shelley said his authority comes from the state.

“What authority does the sheriff have?” Shelley said. “Our authority comes from the state constitution and the state constitution, as far as I know, doesn’t mention anybody migrating here.”

The emergency order outlined that no hotel, motel or multiple dwelling facility is allowed to engage in business regarding the housing or accommodating of migrants but Shelley added that his oath requires him to protect all people in Onondaga County.

“I took an oath to keep people safe in this county, and that includes people visiting this county,” Shelley said.

Late Monday, the emergency order was updated "to ensure that the Sheriff and his department have the powers, as well as the protection, to help us address the anticipated migrant influx," according to Justin Sayles, McMahon's communications director.

The county also filed a lawsuit Monday against New York City, Mayor Eric Adams, the NYC Commissioner of Social Services and Candlewood Suites over a violation of the county's emergency order.

Shelley said it is important people know migrants are not often coming with ill intent.

“If they’re seeking asylum from a war-torn country like Ukraine, people might have a different perception. I think some people believe that everybody trying to migrate here is a bad person and that is not the case,” Shelley said.

Abigail is a temporary WRVO News Reporter/Producer working on regional and digital news stories. She graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2022 where she studied English and Public Relations. Abigail enjoys reading, writing, exploring CNY and spending time with family and friends. Abigail first joined the WRVO team as a student reporter in June 2022.