CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Overnight Thursday, roughly 50 people seeking asylum were taken from New York City to Cheektowaga.
Erie County Legislator Frank Todaro represents the district. He said he was given notice of this on Thursday around 5 p.m. Two days before this, the Erie County Executive’s office says the City of New York began making calls to elected officials representing the Cheektowaga area regarding the asylum seekers’ possible arrival.
News 4 has not yet confirmed where the asylum seekers are staying, but did capture video of Coach buses in the parking lot of a local hotel.
Last month, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz doubled down on his support for asylum seekers after a number of other New York counties spoke out and took action against it.
“The diversity of our community is one of its greatest attributes,” he said Friday morning. “Buffalo and Erie County are welcoming communities to all, and we will continue to do the same for any person seeking refuge from a despotic or violent homeland.”
Unlike a number of other counties, Poloncarz did not issue a state of emergency in response to the end of Title 42, which a report from ‘The Hill’ describes as a “pandemic-era policy [that] allowed border officials to quickly expel migrants they encountered, blocking them from seeking asylum.”
The same report says “migrant crossings dropped suddenly with the policy’s sunset,” despite some federal lawmakers carrying the belief that they would dramatically increase.
Title 42, in a broader perspective, relates to more than this, but it has become known for blocking migrants with the purpose of protecting public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ‘The Hill’.
Poloncarz says he’s “been assured the costs associated with [migrants’] housing, food, and other supportive services will be paid for by either New York State or New York City.”
According to the County Executive, a number of local resettlement agencies “recently started a joint venture” to help with sheltering the asylum seekers.
“County officials encouraged their NYC counterparts, who are paying for this move, to ensure that contracts were in place with the appropriate resettlement agencies like Jericho Road and Jewish Family Services to ensure a smooth transition,” the County Executive’s office said Thursday.
Jericho Road Community Health Center released a statement on Friday morning.
“Jericho Road Community Health Center is committed to caring for our neighbor. We intend to do this well. The folks coming in from NYC are asylum seekers. They fled horrible situations and have traveled a long and dangerous journey to get here. They are our neighbors and we welcome them. We know that as they find safety and refuge here, our City, State, and Nation will be better for it.”
At Jericho Road, we have done this work for many years. We are working with our partners, as well as local and state governments, as we walk out this care and as we stand in the gap for this vulnerable population. Their burdens are heavy and their journey has been long, but Buffalo, the City of Good Neighbors, is well equipped for this care.”Jericho Road Founder and CEO Dr. Myron Glick
Accepting refugees is not a foreign concept for Erie County. The County Executive even noted that it’s not unusual for “a couple hundred” refugee or asylum seekers to be in the community at any given time.
“It’s not a crisis,” Poloncarz previously stated. “COVID was a crisis. The mass shooting was a crisis. The blizzard was a crisis.”
Friday morning, Poloncarz issued a series of tweets addressing the asylum seekers’ arrival. He says Jericho Road and their partners will be on site for the foreseeable future.
“As has been reported to me, the 50 asylum seekers speak at least 12 different languages, with the largest from the Congo and Venezuela,” Poloncarz said.
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