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Onondaga not among NY counties declaring emergency from migrant influx

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 preparing for the possibility that migrants crossing the southern border could end up in Central New York.  Most migrants are starting out in New York City, but are already being sent elsewhere. 

County Executive Ryan McMahon said officials unsure if or when migrants might arrive here, or how many. But state law requires localities to provide them with shelter and services.

“So you’re talking about where they sleep. You're talking about casework. You're talking about food stamps, and to make sure that health care is done quickly with immunizations,” McMahan said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

McMahon said public safety could also be a concern, since most of the migrants have not been vetted. He and other county leaders were on a call Thursday with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who says they’re already out of space.

Orange, Rockland, and Oneida counties already declared states of emergency in an effort to stop potential plans to relocate the migrants. Broome and Schuyler counties did the same on Thursday, WSKG reported. But McMahon said he isn’t ready to make that move just yet. He said his office and the area’s resettlement agencies will be meeting in the days ahead to assess the community’s capacity.

“If we plan and we can be part of a broader solution in the short-term, we'd like to be a good teammate," McMahon said. "But we're not going to have a situation forced upon us, if that means we have to issue our own executive orders, we’ll look at that option as well.”

The governor earlier this week issued an executive order to help with resources in response to the increased arrivals of asylum seekers, but McMahon said so far, the state has not offered support to upstate communities. He indicated that a conversation earlier this week between county leaders and the governor’s office was not productive.

Meanwhile, McMahon implored the federal government to secure the southern border as Title 42 expires. The public health policy was put in place under the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed officials to quickly return migrants to Mexico or their home countries.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at