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OPINION: We Can Fix the Migrant Mess by Calling a Special Session

By Will Barclay


The migrant crisis in New York continues to escalate. There are now more than 100,000 migrants whose records, including things like vaccination status for those about to be enrolled in our public schools, are a complete mystery to local and state officials. Estimates show New Yorkers are looking at a multi-billion-dollar bill to cover expenses related to the crisis. 

As such, the Assembly and Senate minority conferences have called on Gov. Kathy Hochul to bring the legislature back to Albany, so we can immediately pass measures to address these critical public-policy gaps. In separate letters to the governor, we urged action at the state level to ensure communities have the resources they need, taxpayers are protected, and that we stem the influx of illegal migrants by revoking New York City’s status as a sanctuary city.

It was clear at the onset of this crisis that city, state, and federal officials were unprepared to take in thousands of migrants who have poured into the country at the southern border. In the absence of their leadership, we have generated a list of legislative actions that will help protect both New Yorkers and the migrants. Our conference introduced these proposals with the hope Gov. Hochul convenes a special session to address the matter:

• Require the state comptroller to examine and audit state and federal funds received and appropriated for humanitarian aid in New York City or any municipality (A.7508, Ra);

• Require New York State to register all migrants in order to assist with background checks and monitoring refugees seeking asylum (A.7319-A, Slater);

• Protect counties and municipalities from “Right to Shelter” confusion by requiring local governing bodies in New York state to opt-in to accept migrants from other jurisdictions;

• Ensure funding is not used to shelter migrants in schools, daycare centers, or community-based organizations;

• Reverse the Executive Order of 2017 prohibiting law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to end New York’s status as an illegal immigration sanctuary;

• Adopt a resolution calling on the federal government to provide financial assistance to the state and properly address the border crisis it created.

Considering the impact of this crisis has spread much further than New York City’s lines, these measures are important for upstate communities facing enormous uncertainty in the coming months. It is extremely unfair to burden upstate communities with New York City’s ill-advised and poorly executed decision to blindly declare the city a “sanctuary.”

Now is the time to act. If the governor truly wants to create a sanctuary in New York, rampant confusion and chaos are not the way to do it.      

William (Will) A. Barclay, 54, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses all of Oswego County, as well as parts of Jefferson and Cayuga counties.