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County executives from New York return from visit to southern border

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Albany County Executive Dan McCoy visit the U.S. southern border, March 2024.
Albany County Executive
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Albany County Executive Dan McCoy visit the U.S. southern border, March 2024.

A 20-person group of county officials and staff from across the U.S. who visited the southern border has returned.  

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Albany County Executive Dan McCoy were on the visit organized by the National Association of Counties, which included time in Mexico, intended to give counties a clearer understanding of the migrant crisis and how to address it.

Upstate New York counties have been working to provide services to migrants sent north to New York City and beyond by the state of Texas. McCoy, a Democrat, says Albany County currently shelters 900 asylum-seekers, the largest number of migrants in the state outside of New York City.

"And I'm like, ‘This is how you can do it. You know, here's the playbook.’ It's not perfect, but that's what I was trying to learn and show other counties, you can do this," said McCoy.

Neuhaus, a Republican, found the situation at the border crossing disturbing.

"While we were there it was still daylight," Neuhaus said. "They had people that were actually breaking over the border and in one section we saw the helicopters interject, the people tried to cross the border. On a given day, they have about 1000 people or so that they capture. They bring them to a processing center. But they said that on a given since October. In this one location alone. 34,000 people have crossed illegally that they have no track of just in this one section. And on a daily basis of that 1000 people they are catching every day, convicted murderers convicted rapists, and people from countries of interest. 'People of countries of interest' means from a country that the United States does not, that has obviously bad relationship but Russia, China, Iran, so on so forth."

McCoy agrees the trip was eye-opening, saying the different agencies involved in immigration and border security are not communicating well enough, and the flow of migrants is not smooth nor efficient.

 "What I took away from that trip, because we dealt with U.S. Customs, U.S. Border Patrol, we actually went into Mexico, that with the Mexican government. It was surprising to know that the U.N. is kind of there unofficially, doing stuff on the Mexico side, FEMA," McCoy said. "But the one thing I did take away from it was like the left and right hand aren't communicating the different agencies there, they might communicate a little bit on certain things. But they, you know, in the handling of the immigrants coming over to the country, like I say, us, the U.S. Border Patrol capture zone, they take intel, and they get all the information, and then they go to the county of El Paso, and then they do the same process over. And then they go from El Paso to New York City. And we do the same thing all over again, where they should have a file and a joint coordination, there should be reps from New York City. So there's a variety of things that we identified, that could be better. But it was alarming that the cartel is no longer dealing in drugs as much. They're human trafficking."

Both McCoy and Neuhaus are Iraq veterans. They visited the city of Juarez on the Mexican side of what Neuhaus calls a "porous" border.
"The entire arid landscape looked like Iraq, bombed out houses, burned down houses, garbage everywhere, run 100% by the drug cartels," Neuhaus said. "And we went to what they called a a holding center, which was really a safe house. So basically, if you have an individual or families that make it through Central America or South America, and they get to the Mexican border, if they can't get over the border, they will get nabbed up by either somebody that is going to hide them in the safe house, which is very small. The majority of them get nabbed up by the drug cartels, where they're either put into the sex slave business, or used as mules to smuggle drugs over the border."

Neuhaus characterized the situation as a "national security issue.” McCoy, Neuhaus and the others will be sending recommendations to New York’s leaders and Washington.

"When we formulate the letter, we're going to obviously be sending it to the governor, the mayor of New York City, to the Senate to the assembly, all the members we're sending it to Congress, all their members, to our New York delegation, the Senate, the president and just saying we you know, you just look at we're doing this, it's here, it's not going away," said McCoy. 

"And we have a list of improvements, securing the wall," Neuhaus said. "Making it so if you come over with your family, you get to the border, you're supposed to go on this app called CBP One. And you could, the app says 'I am coming from a country. That's a bad country, and I'm seeking asylum in the United States of America.' So you would get an appointment and you're able to come over the border. But that app can take five days, it could take five weeks and take five months. So you get to the border with your wife and kids. You're waiting five days you're gobbled up by the cartels most likely. And now you're screwed. Or you're at their mercy, which is not a good situation. So those are the type of things we're going to raise."

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.
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