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Niagara County issues state of emergency related to 'immigrant crisis'


Thu, May 18th 2023 08:50 pm

Submitted by the Niagara County Public Information Office 

Following the proactive action taken by multiple counties in recent days, Niagara County on Wednesday issued a state of emergency in relation to the “immigrant crisis plaguing New York City,” making it clear that it lacks the resources and accommodations to accept busloads of immigrants from downstate. County officials across the state have been warned that New York state and New York City officials are currently looking for housing options for these migrants in upstate shelters and hotels.

“New York City decided it would be a sanctuary city and welcome those who entered the country illegally, and now that this ill-conceived policy has produced the predictable results: It appears state and city officials are looking to upstate counties to bail them out,” Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Randy Bradt said. “We are not without compassion, but we simply lack the resources to do it.”

According to Niagara County Social Services Commissioner Meghan Lutz, the county is having a difficult time finding housing for the local homeless populations, and shelters and other residential settings are nearly at capacity.

“I simply cannot fathom how we could possibly address a large influx of individuals in need of shelter when we know for a fact that our partner agencies lack capacity to address our current homeless population,” Lutz said. “We cannot take on this burden.”

Beyond homeless shelters, it appears state and city officials are looking to rent hotel rooms across upstate, as well to serve as temporary shelters for these migrants.

“Even with New York City paying for hotel rooms, the influx of a significant number of people who have no legal ability to pursue employment will be a drain on our social services and other community resources,” Bradt said. “Plus, we all know payments from New York City will be temporary, and eventually the full burden of providing Safety Net, Medicaid and other government benefits to this population will fall directly on Niagara County taxpayers.”

Emergency Services Director Jonathan Schultz said the state of emergency declaration prevents any hotelier from entering into a contractual agreement with any government outside of Niagara County, such as New York City, to house or transport migrants or asylums seekers without the approval of the Niagara County Legislature. The county can rescind the declaration at any time or renew it every 30 days.

Sheriff Michael Filicetti said there are both civil and criminal penalties for violating the emergency order, including a $2,000 per immigrant, per day, fine for any hotel owner who enters into a contract with New York City or New York state.

“We are not interested in turning hotel owners into criminals, but the emergency order is clear and we will enforce it,” Filicetti said. 

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