SYRACUSE — Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said Thursday that he is issuing an emergency order that will block local motels and other properties from temporarily housing groups of migrants amid an influx of new arrivals in New York City.
McMahon said the county and local social service agencies simply don’t have the physical space or financial capacity to handle a surge of migrants.
“We’re not in a position where we’re going to take in migrants from another government at this time,” McMahon told syracuse.com.
Onondaga becomes at least the 10th county in the state, and one of the largest, to take emergency action aimed at preventing large numbers of migrants from being bused from New York City for temporary housing in upstate facilities.
A press release from St. Lawrence County stated that the county has more than 75 miles of border with Canada, including two border crossings in Massena and Ogdensburg that anticipate an influx of people who may be seeking shelter.
McMahon said he decided to take action after local social service agencies told him they don’t have the resource to take in an expected surge of migrants entering the U.S. this spring.
Refugee resettlement groups that include Catholic Charities and InterFaith Works in Syracuse informed the county that they are already stretched thin as they work to resettle an expected 1,900 refugees over the next 12 to 16 months, McMahon said.
“We made very public commitments to be a refugee resettlement community,” McMahon said. “We have to live up to what that means and find housing and supportive services.”
Catholic Charities and InterFaith Works told syracuse.com that they have not been contacted by state or federal agencies seeking housing for migrants.
Onondaga County officials said they have not received any notification from state or federal authorities that it would receive migrants.
McMahon had asked the social service agencies for an inventory of available space after New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he would send migrants only to welcoming communities that could help relieve crowded shelters in the city.
But McMahon said Thursday that he felt betrayed by Adams after finding out that a company that works with New York City to find migrant housing has started advertising for new employees in Syracuse.
McMahon said he sees the ad is an indication that New York City plans to bring migrants to Onondaga County.
“What has changed is that we were told by the mayor of New York City that they would not try to go around us as partners in this process,” McMahon said, adding, “that is why we are somewhat forced into this executive order.”
The county executive said his order will prohibit any municipality from entering into contracts to transport or house migrants or asylum seekers in Onondaga County. McMahon said county lawyers told him he has the legal authority to issue the order under section 24 of the state’s executive law.
McMahon’s decision to act comes one day after the chairman of the Oswego County Legislature issued an emergency order that bans local motels, shelters or other multi-family locations from temporarily housing migrants. The order also bans the transport of migrants seeking asylum to the county.
Oneida and Cortland counties issued similar emergency orders last week.
Oswego County issued its ban on the same day Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul said state officials are considering whether to temporarily house some migrants on SUNY campuses, potentially including SUNY Oswego.
The emergency order requires the state or any entity that wants to transport and house migrants in Oswego County to obtain a license or written permission from the county government.
The number of migrants who need temporary housing in New York has surged this year after Texas offered free bus rides that took migrants from border cities directly to New York City.
City officials say more than 37,000 migrants are being temporarily housed in the city, stretching its ability to handle any new surge this spring and summer.
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