GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is “confident” that a Cheektowaga hotel housing asylum seekers will be closed in the near future, providing other accommodations for those staying there can be made.
“The conversations I’ve had from the state and others indicate that they will close that Dingens Street hotel, which is in a residential neighborhood,” Poloncarz said during a Thursday press conference on Grand Island. “It’s just a matter of they’ve got to move the folks.”
Poloncarz did not identify an exact location where asylum seekers staying in the Dingens Street hotel could be moved but said that work is being done.
The National Guard arrived Wednesday in Western New York to assist in operations at the hotels housing asylum seekers, with Poloncarz calling them a “reassuring presence” for both the community and migrants.
The attempt to shut down operations at the hotel comes in the midst of two asylum seekers being accused of sexual assault in recent weeks.
“[The accused asylum seekers] will be brought to justice,” Poloncarz said. “We certainly don’t want this to tarnish or make people think that all asylum seekers and all refugees and all immigrants in this community are bad people. Most of them just want to work … they want to become productive members of the community.”
Poloncarz called on President Joe Biden’s administration and Congress to change rules tied to how long asylum seekers can begin legally working, describing migrants having to wait for weeks while they’re willing to work “silly.”
“Two incidents don’t represent everything going on there,” Poloncarz said. The county executive added that there were fewer police calls to the hotel during the period of asylum seekers staying there compared to the equal time frame beforehand.
Questions remain regarding how school-aged asylum seekers will enter the education system locally, and Poloncarz said Erie County has a “tentative plan” in place to accommodate their needs. However, the plan will not be released imminently as it is still being ironed out.
“We have a good tentative plan in place so that when the school year starts they’ll be able to educate the students and ensure no school district is inundated and can’t handle it,” Poloncarz said. “We’re working hard to ensure that any school-aged children will have the opportunity to go to school, be educated and be our newest Americans.”
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