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As more migrants arrive in Colonie, Capital Region numbers grow

 Joan Diaz, Javier Párraga and Francisco Olivares, three migrants who recently arrived at the Sure-Stay Hotel in Colonie, speak with WAMC’s Alexander Babbie on July 27, 2023.
Dave Lucas
Joan Diaz, Javier Párraga and Francisco Olivares, three migrants who recently arrived at the Sure-Stay Hotel in Colonie, speak with WAMC’s Alexander Babbie on July 27, 2023.

More asylum seekers have arrived in Colonie, New York.

The first group of migrants arrived in Colonie over Memorial Day weekend, with local officials saying they were caught off guard and quickly pursuing legal action.

Republican Town Supervisor Peter Crummey says over the past week three busloads of migrants have arrived at the SureStay from New York City.

"A week ago, Wednesday night at midnight, Mayor Adams dropped off more folks from New York City," said Crummey. "And then this past Sunday night, one or two more midnight drops were made, this time with children and families as well, into the same motel. And the Colonie police were able to go over and asked to see the register. They were denied. They were told to 'go get a search warrant,' based on advice of their downstate counsel."

Crummey says police returned the next morning with a search warrant and spent hours going through the motel's register. He says SureStay has been cited for violating local law that says people cannot stay more than 28 consecutive days in a hotel. Colonie is entangled in three court cases in a quest to test the legality of New York City Mayor Eric Adams relocating the asylum seekers elsewhere in the state. The Democrat says federal direction is needed to deal with the emergency.

Recent arrivals at SureStay include asylum seekers from Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. Joan Diaz, Javier Parraga, and Francisco Olivares, have been walking up and down Wolf Road looking for work. They spoke with WAMC Thursday.

Olivares says he is a licensed electrical technician but will take any job. The three say they trekked for miles to get to the U.S. in search of a better life for themselves and their families. Each carries a government-issued cell phone.

"It belongs to the state. To immigration. We can’t do anything else with it but talk to the state. They ask for a picture every Thursday."

The photographs verify their locations.

Crummey says the arrival of children complicates the matter.

"I'm told there's no less than 30 children now that have been dropped off over here on Wolf Road without any notice to the school district," said Crummey.

The Schenectady County Legislature convened a special meeting Monday to discuss the arrival of asylum seekers including families with children who were sent from New York City to a motel in Rotterdam days earlier.

Mohonasen Central School District Superintendent Shannon Shine says he has learned there are 68 school-aged children. Most speak Spanish but a few speak Russian and another family is Haitian-Creole. But he has many questions about the students’ needs.

"I just haven't had a chance to interface with anybody who can give me those answers," Shine said. 'I've been fielding lots of questions. So our team is ready to roll, ready to rock. But we need to know how many children, ages, what grade levels, where they're at in terms of English language proficiency. And we need to staff up which we can make all that happen. But it really should happen as soon as possible. Because you know, class lists are already determined for the fall and locations for teachers and other service providers."

A state of emergency is now in effect in Schenectady County, with an order prohibiting additional migrants from being sheltered there.

Angela Castrillo-Vilches with the New York Immigration Coalition says the reaction from Rotterdam residents is "really a shame" and finds the response from Schenectady County "concerning."

"Nearly every New Yorker has family rooted in immigration. So it's not something that's new to our communities. We know that cities, towns and rural communities across New York State have benefited from immigrant communities. And that like without them, our local farms and our restaurants, our convenience stores, or pretty much any business that you can think of, probably wouldn't exist. So a lot of this concern is us fearing that, you know, migrants, folks that are coming up, asylum seekers are terrified to really integrate into the community, they come up to the Capitol Region, really willing and wanting to be part of the community, being ready to, you know, have homes and have friends and have community here. And so a lot of this fear mongering that goes on through whether it be laws that are passed, to exclude them from certain areas, or even, you know, some negative media, and what it really does that affect their ability to integrate into our communities," said Castrillo-Vilches.

Back in Colonie, Crummey is concerned about what eventually will happen to the asylum seekers. He is calling on the federal government to take responsibility.

"It's too bad that all of us have to use so many resources just to get the thing righted," Crummey said. "The federal government has left, I haven't heard the federal government speak to it at all. All I know is I guess they sued Texas the other day. That's their big, that's their response? As they have allowed all these folks to come in here, and then shipped them all over the country. on a you know, it's awful for the folks on the bus, it's disingenuous to the folks that they let in here. And then, they will be deserted by Mayor Adams' money in short order. And trust me those motels will move them out as soon as Mayor Adams' money dries up."

Democratic State Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara has made repeated calls for transparency on migrant handling and community sheltering, including an appeal to Attorney General Tish James.

Republican State Senator Jim Tedisco is introducing a Migrant Home Rule Transfer Transparency Act that would prevent municipalities from transferring migrants to another municipality without a home rule resolution accepting the proposal.

"Municipalities such as New York City would have 30 days to notify a town, village or county of their intention of transferring migrants to them," said Tedisco. " If the receiving municipality does not pass a resolution accepting the migrants, they will have to look elsewhere for one that does."

Tedisco's bill would also allow the state to impose a one-thousand-dollar-per-day-per-migrant penalty if migrants are transferred without a formal resolution of acceptance from the host community.

It is not known if more buses will be sent to the Capital Region. A caseworker with DocGo, the company hired by New York City to transport migrants, said she could not speak with WAMC about the operation.

 Joan Diaz, Javier Párraga and Francisco Olivares, three migrants who recently arrived at the Sure-Stay Hotel in Colonie, walk along Wolf Road in search of employment.
Dave Lucas
Joan Diaz, Javier Párraga and Francisco Olivares, three migrants who recently arrived at the Sure-Stay Hotel in Colonie, walk along Wolf Road in search of employment.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
A 2022 Siena College graduate, Alexander began his journalism career as a sports writer for Siena College's student paper The Promethean, and as a host for Siena's school radio station, WVCR-FM "The Saint." A Cubs fan, Alexander hosts the morning Sports Report in addition to producing Morning Edition. You can hear the sports reports over-the-air at 6:19 and 7:19 AM, and online on WAMC.org. He also speaks Spanish as a second language. To reach him, email ababbie@wamc.org, or call (518)-465-5233 x 190. You can also find him on Twitter/X: @ABabbieWAMC.
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