Jefferson County sees no reason for migrant state of emergency, at least for now

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 5:47 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - St. Lawrence, Onondaga and Oswego counties have all declared a state of emergency due to the possibility of migrants moving to the area from New York City.

Where does Jefferson County stand?

“Our perspective is a little bit more along the lines of is there a need at the present time,” said Jefferson County Administrator Bob Hagemann.

According to Hagemann, there is no need since, at least for now, there’s no evidence that suggests Jefferson County will see an influx of migrants.

“We’ve heard some rumors of folks coming from Syracuse. Well, no, that didn’t happen,” he said.

A key concern among the counties declaring states of emergency is the potential for migrants to be housed on college campuses. Hagemann tells us he’s been told that JCC is off the table.

“That would not apply here in Jefferson County to our community college for a variety of technical reasons,” he said.

In the event migrants do make their way north, Hagemann says they could benefit the economy by filling vacant positions. So he urges people not to vilify them.

“These are folks that are definitely wanting to make a better life. From that standpoint, it’s really sad that we find ourselves dealing with a situation with so many unknown variables at the present time,” said Hagemann.

An unknown variable is working papers, which put a barrier between migrants and employment.

“So they can locate here but there’s nothing happening for the next 12 months because you have to go through a court process, you have to have to go through various agency processes to get the necessary approvals,” said Hagemann.

On the state level, Governor Kathy Hochul says she’s working to make getting those papers quicker and easier for migrants.

“They’re ready to work. They’re willing to work and they’re not able to work. So we’re spending a lot of money, we’re dealing with what we can, but we need a lot of help from Washington,” she said.