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State of Emergency declared to stop immigrants from landing on county's doorstep

By Joanne Beck
Matt Landers state of emergency
Genesee County Manager Matt Landers issues a local State of Emergency for the county Wednesday out of "an abundance of caution" due to threat of undocumented immigrants arriving here from downstate. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Citing “an abundance of caution,” County Manager Matt Landers declared a local state of emergency for Genesee County earlier Wednesday in response to rippling speculations about potential busloads of undocumented immigrants being sent this way from New York City.

One of the last straws — in an untidy political mix of statements about where immigrants should and should not go — was Orleans County’s declaration issued prior to Genesee County on Wednesday, Landers said. That was apparently one of the reasons for an executive session called abruptly after the Ways and Means meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

The private, executive session was called for what Legislator Marianne Clattenburg termed “what happened this afternoon.”

So The Batavian asked, what happened this afternoon?

“Well, a lot of it was just meetings with various stakeholders, Orleans County issuing their state of emergency was probably a prompt. Because of that, we took notice of that, there was a lot of speculation that raised our concerns about how easily a group of asylum seekers could end up at our doorstep without us even knowing,” Landers said. “So I guess it was our vulnerability that came to light of how simple and how easy and how fast that could happen, that we wanted to have this in place, in case that were to happen.

“So that was probably some of the prompts that happened throughout the day that caused us to take this action,” he said.

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney had previously issued a press release opposing a move to send immigrants to upstate SUNY campuses, though that doesn’t seem to be any official step being taken by the state government at this time. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been pushing to move immigrants north.

Landers said that, because Genesee Community College receives both county and state funding, that he isn’t certain whether he would include GCC at some point in the list of entities discouraged from taking in busloads of immigrants during the county’s state of emergency. But for now, he is instead emphasizing hotels and motels.

The Batavian asked if he was aware of two busloads of people dropped off at The Clarion on Wednesday, rumored to be immigrants and news that was shared with us by a Batavian reader. They were confirmed by Sheriff’s Office personnel to be National Guards here for training, Landers said.

“Because it's about doing a good job of being aware. You know, we have contacts throughout the county that are in positions to help give any kind of advanced notification if there was an issue that came to light,” he said. “So there is a heightened awareness for county operations right now.”

State Gov. Kathy Hochul issued a State of Emergency for New York State for similar reasons, and for what Landers believes is to probably try and capture federal government financial resources, “which is understandable,” he said.

“This is more to get a better handle on control in Genesee County, and have the situation to an abundance of caution to be able to respond to a situation where we're not aware of asylum seekers coming to our community, there’s channels out there, and I do have confidence in the governor's office, through their representative, that they would try to reach out to us if there was a group that was heading to Genesee County, but there's different avenues of which that they can come from and it's not all through the governor's office,” Landers said. “So I am in consultation with the governor's office and, and the representative has been very forthcoming and upfront with me, and I think we've got a great working relationship. But that's only one piece of the puzzle. So the state of emergency is kind of trying to cover multiple scenarios, you know … And, again, we'll evaluate the state of emergency in the next five days, and see if we've covered everything, and maybe we strengthen it, modify it, or let it expire.”

The county’s Local State of Emergency was declared for Genesee County, due to New York City's program to rapidly increase the number of migrants in this County to unsustainable levels.  

“Pursuant to NYS Executive Law § 24, when a State of Emergency is in effect, the County  Manager may promulgate local emergency orders to protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation under control.

By law, upon reconsideration of all the relevant facts and circumstances, such an order may be extended for additional periods not to exceed five days each during the pendency of the state of emergency.  

Press release:

Out of an abundance of caution, a local State of Emergency has been put into place by County Manager L. Matthew Landers as of May 17, 2023, in response to New York City’s program to bus migrants and asylum seekers to other counties in New York State. Genesee County is not equipped for a rapid increase of persons in need of services, and if the City of New York or other municipalities were to flood the County with migrants and asylum seekers, the situation would only worsen.

This Local Emergency Order will remain in effect for five days unless sooner modified, extended or revoked. It may be extended for additional periods not to exceed five days during the pendency of the local state of emergency. This order may be referred to as the “Genesee County Sustainable Migration Protocol."

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