Chairwoman Shawna Black Makes Remarks on Welcoming Asylum Seekers
Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman Shawna Black's (D-Ithaca) remarks are included in their entirety below:
Tompkins County has always prided itself on being a caring, accepting, and open community. As we observed during the pandemic, we have the tools and people to manage an emergency, coordinate with partners, and communicate with our community.
In the future, Tompkins County may be in a position to welcome asylum seekers. If given the opportunity, we would do so with coordinated resources and open communication with the State, local partners, and our community.
Tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been transported from the southern U.S. to New York City over the past several months. The City says that few resources remain available to house newcomers.
After calls from other Counties for more communication and coordination with the City and State, the Governor says that her team is working to first increase resources in New York City. They are also considering options where some asylum seekers may be relocated to more welcoming communities upstate.
Plans are in development for if we were to receive asylum seekers. Our Administration, Emergency Response, Social Services, and Sheriff’s Department staff are working diligently and staying informed on the issues as they develop.
We are fortunate to have a caring community with so much goodwill.
As with any challenge or opportunity, we rely on our residents, businesses, religious organizations, and not-for-profits to work with us to ensure safe and positive outcomes – I expect the same if we were to welcome asylum seekers.
Right now, as we await more information, we’re asking the community to be patient.
If we are to receive asylum seekers we would commit to as robust and compassionate accommodations as we are able to offer. In any case we would only be able to effectively welcome a limited number of asylum seekers. We’re in coordination with relevant community partners on how we might house and deliver services to these individuals.
I want to be very transparent with the fact that actions to potentially house asylum seekers come as our local homelessness issue is growing. We acknowledge that.
Regardless of how this plays out, we can no longer endlessly debate proposals and leave those in need and unhoused without actions to ensure stable housing and effective services. I would challenge us to consider comparably rapid brainstorming, leadership, and political will to house people in Tompkins County. Yes, it’s complicated – but it is also possible.
The United States has an imperfect immigration and asylum system. Regardless of delays and inaction at the State and Federal levels, welcoming communities like ours can do our small part to offer safe harbor. As with many things in government this is about balance and creating a community where people feel safe, cared for, and each person can contribute.
As we navigate uncertain times, our goal as a county government will be focused on transparent and timely communication to our constituents. We continue to look to our highly qualified staff for information and direction.
In closing, those who seek asylum in Tompkins County will be welcomed as our new neighbors.
Among Other Business
A proclamation was read by Legislator Lee Shurtleff (R-Groton) for Building Safety Month. The resolution spoke to the resilience of the buildings in the community and thanked builders, tradespeople, architects, firefighters, and others who help to ensure building safety. It also referenced the International Code Council of experts in the built environment and how to ensure those buildings are safe. Marty Mosely, Code Enforcement Officer for the Town of Ithaca and President of the State Association was present to accept the proclamation.
A proclamation was read celebrating Memorial Day, honoring military lives lost in sacrifice for the United States. Director of the Veterans Services Department, J.R. Clairborne accepted the proclamation and thanked the Legislature.