Confusion reigns in Massena following report airport chosen to house asylum seekers

Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 11:47 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2023 at 11:48 AM EDT
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MASSENA, New York (WWNY) - CBS News reports Massena International Airport is on a list of sites offered by the federal government to help New York City deal with the influx of asylum seekers.

But the town supervisor says she is completely caught off guard and has had no conversations about it.

CBS reports that Homeland Security officials offered 11 sites to build shelters. Most of them are downstate except the Massena airport, perhaps the furthest you can get from New York City and still be in New York state.

Town Supervisor Sue Bellor says she doesn’t know what to make of it.

“How did they select these locations, because looking at the list a lot of them are around New York City — 100, 200 miles, I don’t know,” Bellor said, “and yet they picked out Massena International Airport. I don’t know where they are getting this from. It’s very confusing to all of us.”

Meanwhile, David Forsythe, the chairman of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators, sees a host of problems if the Massena airport is chosen to host asylum seekers.

“Language barrier’s gonna be huge. We just don’t have the resources. Our medical facilities, you hear about nursing shortages. If they get sick, medical facilities aren’t prepared. It’s just a list that keeps going on and on and on. Where that came from, originated, or whose idea, I have no idea. But I know the Massena community’s not willing to accept it. I know St. Lawrence County’s not going to accept it,” he said.

Bellor has written to Congresswoman Elise Stefanik about this surprise.

Stefanik’s social media accounts are raising awareness about it and linking to the CBS report. She posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, “On behalf of the North Country, we say NO!”

Later on, her office issued a statement from the congresswoman:

“I proudly stand with the bipartisan coalition of local elected officials and the hardworking residents of St. Lawrence County who oppose using Massena International Airport as a site to house illegal immigrants. Upstate New York and the North Country is not a “Sanctuary City.” We should not have to bear the cost of Joe Biden, Kathy Hochul, and Eric Adams’ Far Left open border policies and the havoc they are causing. I will continue to work with this bipartisan coalition of local officials to ensure our communities remain safe and that Massena International Airport is not used as a site to house illegal immigrants. Once again, I call on President Biden to end his radical open border policies and secure our Northern and Southern Borders.”

The news comes after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged that upstate communities will not be forced to house migrants.

“We cannot and will not force other parts of our state to shelter migrants,” Hochul said Friday.

According to CBS, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said, “We don’t have an option. New York City has run out of room. “We are going to use any space that’s available to take the pressure off of New York City residents.”

Concern over migrants being bussed north prompted St. Lawrence County to declare a state of emergency earlier this year, and for the mayor of West Carthage to go to court to block a motel from housing migrants.