Niagara County Issues State of Emergency Related to Immigrant Crisis

Following the proactive action taken by multiple counties in recent days, Niagara County today 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,” said Niagara County Legislature Majority Leader Randy Bradt.  “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,” said Lutz.  “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 a temporary shelters for these migrants.

“Even with New York City paying for hotel rooms, the influx of a significant number people who have no legal ability to pursue employment will be a drain on our social services and other community resources,” said Majority Leader Bradt.  “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 that 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,” said Filicetti.

Read the state of emergency here and the accompanying emergency order here.