Monroe County receives 77 migrants bused from New York City
After months of speculation that Rochester could be a destination for displaced migrants, two buses from New York City carrying 77 people seeking asylum in the United States arrived late Monday at the Holiday Inn on State Street.
They were greeted by local officials and social service workers who presented them with food and clothing and introduced them to their accommodations, including showing them how to use key cards to enter their hotel rooms and how to use microwave ovens.
People who met the migrants said they traveled light. Of the 77, more than half are children and teens, records show, with an average age of 7. One pregnant woman was among the group when they pulled in to the hotel parking lot around 10:30 p.m. Monday, officials said.
Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, flanked by local dignitaries and social service workers, announced their arrival Tuesday during a news conference at the Monroe County Office Building, where he and other officials took pains to convey that the newcomers would be welcomed here.
“What we are not going to do is be a community where buses of people are just coming here in the middle of the night being dropped off in a parking lot with people who don’t know where they are, why they’re here and who's taking care of them,” Bello said. “That’s not going to happen in Monroe County.”
Rochester is among several cities across the state where New York City has bused migrants who arrived there with little to no resources to ensure their welfare. That city has reportedly received upward of 60,000 migrants in the last year, many of them bused in from Texas and other states where they first set foot on American soil.
Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, has said that the city would pay for migrants’ hotel rooms and support services, and an executive order issued by Bello in May seeks to hold the city to its pledge.
The executive order, issued May 23, requires any hotel accepting migrants to file an emergency housing plan with the county that provides for their shelter, meals, and medical needs. The plan is to be reviewed every 30 days.
Rochester Mayor Malik Evans, who joined Bello at the news conference, stressed that he expects New York City to make good on its promise to pay for the migrants, saying, “We don’t have a bottomless pit of resources.”
“When we got word that there are an influx of migrants that are being bused to cities around the country and they are landing on our doorsteps, we have to do the humane thing, and the humane thing is to meet the moment,” Evans said. “But I want to be clear, as the county executive said, we are meeting the moment, but we have every expectation that what we were promised will be delivered.”
The possibility that migrants would come here surfaced last week, when county officials abruptly pulled scores of homeless people from a Motel 6 in Gates that had been used as an overflow emergency shelter.
Email exchanges between the county and the hotel owner obtained by WXXI News showed that the hotel might be used for migrants, although the emails contained no indication if and when that might happen.
County spokesperson Gary Walker said Tuesday that the Holiday Inn filed an emergency housing plan for migrants on Friday and the county OK'd the plan the same day.
Officials signaled that Rochester may receive more migrants, saying that there were hotel rooms for them available.
The reception of the migrants here Monday night stood in stark contrast to the welcome that migrants have received in other cities and towns around the state.
For instance, in May, Rockland County and towns in Orange County filed for temporary restraining orders to prevent migrants from arriving. When they did come, resistance took the form of protesters yelling obscenities at them and police officers with orders to physically block and search any bus carrying migrants.
Monroe County officials credited the peaceful reception here to their planning, although keeping word that migrants would be arriving out of the public eye until Tuesday may have also lent to the relatively smooth reception.
WXXI News has repeatedly asked the Bello administration in recent weeks for any emergency housing plans that had been filed under his executive order, and consistently received no response.
Officials and social service workers here, speaking to reporters, said they did not have details about the migrants’ countries of origins, where they entered the United States, or how long they have been in the country. Migrants are lawfully admitted to the United States while they officially seek asylum.
Some said the migrants spoke a variety of languages, including Spanish and French, and that many hailed from Latin America and Africa, among other places.
Angelica Perez-Delgado, the president of Ibero-American Action League, a social services organization for Latinos, said the arrival of the people was “a very personal situation” for her agency.
“We see the faces of our own families in them and the great suffering they experienced to come here,” she said.
“This is not a Texas problem, this is not any state problem,” she added. “This an American problem about how we treat immigrants in our country and the humanity that we rip away from people.”