ALBION, N.Y. (WIVB) — A housing crisis regarding migrants and asylum seekers in Orleans County has resulted in a State of Emergency taking effect Wednesday afternoon.
The Orleans County Legislature says there has been a 178 percent increase in the placement of homeless persons since this past July, “exceeding our limited number of temporary and permanent emergency housing facilities.”
“Orleans County does not have the capability to receive or sustain any number of migrants and/or asylum seekers,” the Legislature said, calling the situation “a threat to public safety.”
Orleans is among other counties across the state that have declared a state of emergency due to the expiration of Title 42, a Trump-era federal health policy.
A report from Nexstar affiliate The Hill describes Title 42 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.
Orleans County’s state of emergency officially began at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and is set to remain in effect for 30 days “or until rescinded by subsequent order,” the Legislature says.
On the same day, a local emergency order was declared by Orleans County Legislature Chairman Lynne Johnson, set to last five days unless modified or extended. It says no one is allowed to do business transporting migrants or asylum seekers to places within the county or house them without Johnson’s permission.
Hotels, motels and owners of buildings with multiple tenants aren’t allowed to provide housing or accommodations for migrants or asylum seekers without the county’s approval either, according to the order.
Those who violate the order could face civil penalties of up to $2,000 for each person housed per day if the violation continues. They could also be charged with a misdemeanor.
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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.