Erie County Legislature tables resolution calling for state of emergency over potential migrant crisis in Erie County

The Legislature Minority challenged the motion, but failed
Erie County Legislature
Photo credit Brayton J. Wilson - WBEN

Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - It was Sunday in front of Old Erie County Hall where Erie County Legislator Jim Malczewski called upon County Executive Mark Poloncarz to declare a state of emergency to avoid a potential migrant crisis in the county.

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Malczewski was set to introduce a resolution to the Erie County Legislature on Thursday calling on Poloncarz to declare the state of emergency, however, it ended up being tabled to the Government Affairs Committee under the direction of Chairwoman April Baskin.

Despite a challenge from the Republican Caucus to have the resolution heard on Thursday, it failed in a party-line vote, 4-7.

"Very disappointing," said Legislator Malczewski following Thursday's decision in the Legislature Chambers. "I brought this forward to try and get facts. There's absolutely nothing out there on what is about to happen, and that's just not right for the residents of Erie County."

The resolution, sponsored by Legislator Malczewski, comes out of concern about the lack of a plan and lack of resources to care for an influx of asylum seekers. This despite Poloncarz speaking Wednesday about some preliminary discussions being had with New York State officials about the possibility of Buffalo and Erie County housing migrants.

"It became very evident that there's no plan," Malczewski said. "This is going on a day-to-day basis, and I don't see how, as a Erie County representative, I can accept this coming to our town with no plan in place."

On-hand for Poloncarz's statement with regards to the migrant debate on Wednesday was Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson. Johnson feels with the facts gathered and individuals the County Executive talked to from the state, Wednesday's comments were a pretty fair assessment of the situation at-hand.

"We still have a lot of things that we don't know," said Johnson following Thursday's Legislative session. "I know there was numbers from 10,000 to about hundreds now. So we don't know where those numbers are at, so I think we have to find out the facts before we can do anything to declare a state of emergency, or anything of that nature."

Johnson feels until the proper information is gathered and more details are known of what's to come for the region, any declaration for a state of emergency would be premature.

"We fought last year, our Minority Caucus and our side fought to get those powers away, and I don't want to automatically give them back right away, and I don't think that's the heart of the County Executive to declare a state of emergency at that time," Johnson said. "We just don't have we just don't have all the facts."

Despite Poloncarz laying out some of the preliminary discussions he has had with state officials on Wednesday, which includes some resources Erie County has for the potential of incoming migrants, Malczewski knows those resources will not be sufficient enough to support any influx.

"It's been stated week-after-week-after-week, just last night, all of our shelters are full. Every time we move forward, it's proven that we don't have the services to be able to accept what's being proposed here," he said.

Malczewski hopes the resolution will be brought up during next Thursday's Government Affairs Committee session, but was perplexed as to why this wasn't discussed further.

When it comes to the overall migrant debate, some feel this whole issue is political fodder that's being used to pump up a political campaign, or get people a bit uneasy about the matter. As for Malczewski, he feels it's political posturing from the County Executive for "bowing" to Gov. Kathy Hochul.

"Over here, you have a bunch of people that are looking out for the best interest of the residents. There's a lot of concern," Malczewski said. "It's been shown that we don't have the services to be able to accept. What are we getting? That right there is the big question that can't be answered. What's coming? Who's paying for it? How much is it going to cost? Mark Poloncarz said we would be reimbursed by New York State. I don't know how you could trust that. New York State just took $43 million away from Erie County in Medicaid funding. If we can't pay for our own, how are we going to pay for other people?"

Featured Image Photo Credit: Brayton J. Wilson - WBEN