A proposal made by Governor Kathy Hochul has many people up in arms, as she is suggesting that asylum seekers being shipped to New York State, mostly to New York City, be allowed to stay in state-owned properties, such as the SUNY campuses.
It’s a problem that has arisen as asylum seekers are being shipped by the busload to New York State from the states bordering Mexico, mostly coming from Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s state of Texas, who has made it Texas policy to ship immigrants from his state on the Mexican border, to northern Democratic states by the busload.
Hochul has requested federal assistance for housing and an appeal for a change in work authorization rules. Additionally, she’s considering using state-owned properties, such as SUNY campuses, as potential temporary shelters. However, long-term feasibility concerns arise as students are expected to return to campuses by August. Most campuses had deadlines of Friday, May 19, for students to leave their dorm rooms, leaving many vacant, since student population on campuses is far less over the summer. However, international students, visitors and some faculty and staff remain in-residence on campuses during the summers. In addition, summer courses are conducted at every single SUNY campus in the system as well as summer camps and educational programs for children.
At a press conference held in the end of May, Hochol said, “Clearly a SUNY campus lends itself to immediate help, but long-term, we would have to have it free by August,” she said. “So what happens in August? So these are the questions we’re asking right now. We are looking at every possible property in the State of New York to help have a relief valve for the City of New York. “
Upstate Republicans are coming out against the proposal, despite the fact that New York City has run out of places to house the migrants being shipped there. New York City originally put the migrants up in hotels, closed schools, then tents, and a bus terminal, then made plans to reopen closed prisons and schools, but plans for getting those places available are slow, and about 4,000 migrants arrive in New York state daily, according to some estimates.
Rep. Claudia L. Tenney, R-Canandaigua, representing Watertown and the Lake Ontario shoreline, the Finger Lakes and Western New York, said in a statement that she had received reports that officials were specifically considering using SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Oswego in her district.
“This is a misguided decision that will make our communities less safe and put an enormous burden on our local governments and taxpayers, not to mention one that would negatively impact our students.” Tenney added that most of the campuses under consideration are in rural communities, ill-equipped to handle the influx.
Tenney said a system of extreme vetting, health screening, background checking that provides robust funding to support the migrants would be the only way to safely place migrants in upstate communities, and that system has not yet been established upstate.
Downstate counties north of New York City, including Orange, Rockland, and Rensselaer, have reacted by declaring states of emergency, prohibiting housing contracts for asylum seekers with New York City. Further north, Broome and Oneida County did the same, while Onondaga County is assessing the potential strain on infrastructure. Oswego County also issued an Emergency Order limiting local entities’ involvement in housing migrants without proper authorization. Upstate counties including Chautauqua, Wyoming, Orleans, Genesee and Niagara counties have also issued states of emergencies. All three assembly members representing the Genesee-Livingston-Orleans-Wyoming (GLOW) county region have signed a letter to Governor Hochul opposing moving migrants to those counties, for lack of resources in the generally rural areas.
According to Holly Liapis, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Communications & Press Secretary of SUNY, “At Governor Hochul’s direction, we are assessing whether there are SUNY resources available to help with the arrival of asylum seekers.” Until that assessment is done, no decision has been made about using the dorms or campus buildings for asylum seekers.