Migrants Pushed Upstate

Could Refugees be Headed to Schoharie Co.?

State May Only Send Migrants to “Welcoming Communities” 

By David Avitabile

SCHOHARIE – With more refugees/migrants/asylum seekers pouring into New York City and being shipped to Upstate counties, will Schoharie County soon see an influx of immigrants form the Southern Border?

Refugees/migrants are being welcomed into nearby Otsego County, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams is looking for more counties to help shoulder the burden as more than 50,000 refugees have poured into the City over the past year.

Most are in the City’s care, which could cost about $1 billion by some estimates this fiscal year. Mayor Adams and others have called the cost for temporary housing, medical care and other support unsustainable.

Middleburgh resident Ted Werner warned Middleburgh town board members of a possible impending crisis last week.

Mayor Adams, with help from the Department of State, is working on resettling refugees in counties north of New York City, including Rockland Orange counties (but not affluent Westchester County).

Mr. Werner noted Thursday evening that the Otsego Refugee Resettlement Coalition has announced it has received certification to begin resettling refugees in the county.

The coalition applied to the U.S. Department of State to become a private sponsor group through the Welcome Corps program and was accepted April 24, and according to the Department of State’s website, the department worked with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to launch the Welcome Corps program in January.

With a vacant jail in nearby Schoharie, the State Department could see that as a possible location to house refugees, Mr. Werner told town board members Thursday.

“It’s something that we should get ahead of,” Mr. Werner said, possibly with some sort of occupancy law.

“We’re not that far away,” he added. “We’re not in Watertown, we’re right here.”
The jail, built for $17 million in the early 1990s, and was heavily damaged in the August 2011 flood. Schoharie County officials have discussed what to do with the vacant jail including using it as a shelter for the homeless. A new jail was rebuilt with FEMA funds in Howes Cave.

Mayor Adams, Mr. Werner added, has been “pushing people upstate.”

At a special meeting of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, though not on the agenda, there was a discussion of the migrant situation. Chairman Bill Federice stated his contacts at the State have not filled in much detail to the counties other than to say that the State would send migrants only to welcoming communities. 

There was some debate about the effectiveness of a resolution in opposition to the placing of the migrants in Schoharie County considering our limited availability of facilities to house migrants. There was considerable doubt expressed by several board members on whether the State will keep their word about not placing migrants where the local governments feel they do not have the resources or capacity to receive them.

Not all areas are as accepting of the refugees as the organization in Otsego County.

There is a new controversy over how New York City is handling the latest influx of migrants from the southern border.

New York City public school gyms are now being used to house refugees and that is causing some outrage among some parents.

In addition, some leaders and residents of Rockland and Orange counties, who had vowed to do everything in their power to prevent Mayor Adams from sending the migrants north.

News reports noted that in Orangetown, Rockland County, that resistance took the form of police officers and sheriff’s deputies, who parked their cruisers near the entrance to the parking lot of a hotel and remained there all week, with orders from county leaders to physically block and search any bus of migrants that might arrive.

In Newburgh last week, after the migrants had arrived, men on motorcycles rode by a hotel and yelled obscenities at the journalists and immigrant advocates gathered outside.