Why St. Lawrence County declared emergency over migrants

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 4:31 PM EDT
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ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, New York (WWNY) - Title 42 has expired. The federal government’s COVID-19 pandemic regulation was used to keep migrants from entering the U.S. over concerns of spreading the virus.

With the policy gone, counties that have international borders are declaring states of emergency. St. Lawrence County issued its state of emergency last Friday.

County Legislator Daniel Fay says it will allow the county to apply for federal funds should a large number of migrants enter the county from Canada or by bus from New York City.

“Basically, the federal government was putting a lot of responsibility on the counties, St. Lawrence County included, because there is no emergency funding from the state. So consequently we had to declare a state of emergency and declaring a state of emergency, it will make us entitled to federal funding,” said Fay (D. - District 9)

Fay also points out that St. Lawrence County is one of the ten poorest counties in New York state.

There are two border checkpoints in the county; one in Ogdensburg and the other in Massena.

County Attorney Stephen Button says that while there aren’t as many migrants coming in from Canada as the southern border in Texas, there are still people coming to the U.S. illegally.

“It’s still for a county like St. Lawrence County that is already under a significant economic stress as Legislator Fay indicated because of the impoverished communities that we serve, even the numbers of 1,500 to 6,000 is a fairly significant increase in our general public responsibility,” said Button.

County Social Services Director Joseph Seeber says there have not been any incidents at local borders since Title 42 expired on Friday.

“From what I understand in talking to some of our federal partners, they expect anybody that does cross our border would not be staying in the county - most likely moving on to New York City or Texas or Florida or other areas unless they have relations to some of the migrant workers that we have in the area,” he said.

County legislators have the state of emergency to expire on June 10. From there they’ll discuss whether to keep the emergency or discuss other options to find solutions.