Friday, Mar 01st

Latimer Reflects on the Possible Arrival of Asylum Seekers in Westchester County

asylumseekersMore than 60,000 immigrants from the southern border have been transported to New York City in the past few months. Strained for resources, NYC Mayor Eric Adams has run out of space in city shelters and is converting facilities like gyms into temporary housing. Last week it was revealed that NYC has leased space in two hotels in Rockland County to house 340 adult male migrants.

However, that move is being blocked by Rockland County Executive Ed Day. In response, he declared a “state of emergency,” and said that any hotels who accepted the asylum seekers will be fined $2,000.

Though Westchester County has not received any specific information about housing asylum seekers here, County Executive George Latimer anticipated that a similar request would come and addressed the issue at his press conference on Monday May 8, 2023 when he said, “We are discussing the issue with relevant departments as to what Westchester’s response should be. We have not received specific examples of a placement in Westchester County.”

He looked at the issue in both practical terms and moral grounds, exploring what the county is obligated to do and what it might do to assist those in need.

He said, “We have had a problem at our Southern border for an extended period of time. Everyday life for the people who live in some countries south of the border is very problematic. We are an attractive place for people to come to. We do not have is a national policy that has been properly debated and implemented.”

He looked back at the history of the issue, noting some recent transports of asylum seekers into the county along with the influx of immigrants in the early 1900’s of his own ancestors.

He noted, “This is not the first time this has happened. In 2018 President Trump placed 1,000 immigrant children across Westchester County. We asked for directives and “HHS told us to “butt out”, that the Federal Government was in charge.

He continued, “In 2021-22 the Biden administration scheduled relocation flights for immigrants and used Westchester County Airport as a portal to deliver immigrants and ferry them out to various locations.”

He said, “There are 7,000 asylum seekers a day at our border. Some have been sent to New York and Martha’s Vineyard. NYC has received 60,000 immigrants over the past few months from Texas and Florida. Some believe there should be a path to citizenship and some believe we should not let immigrants into the country. It falls to state and local governments to deal with it.”

He looked back on the history of Irish and Italian immigrants who were not welcomed and were called WOPS (without papers) and Jews who fled pogroms to resettle here. These immigrants included Latimer’s own great grandfather who came to the U.S. and had 13 children, one being Latimer’s grandfather.

Latimer said, “There is a practical aspect to this. If immigrants come here, what is the legal basis and what is the cost? We need to know the timeline and for how long. What kind of services can be provided to undocumented aliens? I have a fiduciary responsible to the people of this county and to make sure people are protected.”

“We will talk to colleagues in other counties, in NYC and from the federal government to get answers.”

Referring to Rockland County Executive Ed Day’s decision to declare a state of emergency, Latimer said he asked counsel for a legal decision on whether or not he can he declare a state of emergency? He was told, “No, that is not the law.’

Reflecting on the crisis, Latimer said, “Human compassion must be met with pragmatism…We cannot solve every problem but we cannot turn a blind eye either.”

Quoting Matthew from the Bible Latimer espoused on our moral obligation to our fellow man.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

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