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Onondaga County sues NYC to prevent relocation of migrants

A man in a blue polo shirt stands behind a lectern with microphones.
Scott Willis
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon addresses the media May 11, 2023.

Onondaga County is filing a lawsuit against New York City to stop asylum seekers from arriving in the town of Salina.

County officials are also filing a temporary restraining order, to bar New York’s mayor from relocating migrants to our region.

The county executive's office announced the legal steps Monday evening.

Last week, County Executive Ryan McMahon issued an emergency order prohibiting the transport of migrants to the area. The new lawsuit alleges New York City officials have no legal authority to violate that order.

The Onondaga County plaintiffs, including Health Commissioner Kathryn Anderson, are also suing New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York State Social Services Commissioner Molly Wasow Park and the Candlewood Suites hotel in Salina, where the migrants are expected to be relocated.

In a release, Salina Town Supervisor Nick Paro said an official with Adams' office told him that they intended to send a bus to Salina so the migrants can stay at its many hotels. Paro says the migrants are simply not welcome, and the town doesn’t have the ability to take them in.

However, Syracuse Common councilor and former refugee Chol Majok urges caution when dealing with human lives.

“It takes a lot for somebody to leave their home, to seek a new place. It takes a lot, ,” says Majok. “I have lived through that. I continue to live through that. Many immigrants and refugees that live here continue to live through that. And I think we should practice sensitivity and be more merciful.”

Majok says he’s disappointed with the measures being taken by the county. McMahon and Paro say there’s a difference between welcoming immigrants and refugees, and not accepting those who haven’t been vetted before their arrival. They’re urging the federal and state governments to intervene so local governments don’t bear the burden of providing shelter and care.

McMahon also issued Monday evening an extension to last week’s executive order, prohibiting any municipality in the county from transporting or housing migrants without his written permission; and banning all hotels, motels and owners of multiple dwellings from providing any accommodation for migrants.

Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have said they expect up to 80,000 migrants in New York.

Natasha Senjanovic teaches radio broadcasting at the Newhouse School while overseeing student journalists at WAER and creating original reporting for the station. She can also be heard hosting All Things Considered some weekday afternoons.