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Asylum seeker emergency orders could costs upstate counties

New York City could send passenger buses with asylum seekers to central New York if legal action from area counties does not hold.

Upstate New York counties with emergency orders barring asylum seekers from being sheltered could end up costing the counties and go back on decades-old precedents.

A county-wide emergency order, a lawsuit against New York City and a temporary restraining order stopping the city from sending asylum seekers to Onondaga County are some of the measures being taken by local leaders to prevent asylum seekers from coming to central New York. But will they be worth it? Jaclyn Kelley-Widmer, an associate clinical professor of law at Cornell University, said the legal battles come with a high price tag.

“I think we are going to see that these orders are going to be costly for these counties, and they’re anti-humanitarian,” Kelley-Widmer said.

She says challenges to the emergency orders are likely to continue. These could end up costing counties in legal fees. For Kelley-Widmer, the orders seem like upstate New York is backing down on its usual welcoming atmosphere.

“It seems to me like counties are kind of strangely going back on their welcoming of immigrants that we have actually historically seen in upstate New York in recent decades,” Kelley-Widmer said.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon and Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, who have both issued emergency orders for their counties, expressed their support for the area’s history with refugee populations but say this situation is just different. Their concerns lie around a lack of resources to properly take care of their own residents along with an influx of asylum seekers.

Kelley-Widmer stressed asylum seekers have typically gone through horrible circumstances in order to get to the United States, a place where they believe they will be safer.

“What people often don't realize is that these folks are generally coming to the United States because they are desperate,” Kelley-Widmer said.

She also said claims that asylum seekers are “illegal” or “undocumented” are typically false. A majority of asylum seekers that end up in New York were processed through official ports of entry, where they express “credible fear of persecution” in their home country.

“In this case, these folks actually have already told the government that they need asylum, and so the government has given them temporary permission to be in the U.S. while their claim is processed,” Kelley-Widmer said.

Kelley-Widmer said a more expedited process of border applications could ease some of the burdens felt by asylum seekers and local governments.

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.