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Exclusive: County Legislative Chair Fitch Speaks on Recent State of Emergency “A Plan Needs to be in Place”


Chair of the Cortland County Legislator, Kevin Fitch (R-LD8), spoke X101 GM John Eves on the recent State of Emergency Declaration and Emergency Order regarding undocumented immigrants who may seek entry into the county after the recent expiration of Title 42.

The declaration and order bans county hotels, motels, owners of multi-family dwellings or owners of real property within the county from accepting any undocumented immigrants who seek entry into the county.

Chairman Fitch said that before giving the declaration and order last Friday, he spoke with state officials, county officials, and surrounding county officials. He also noted his major concern regarding New York State and New York City.

“New York State and New York City I felt did not give counties the opportunity to really evaluate the county as a whole on the services we could provide.” Fitch said to X101.

He continued by stressing that the county would never say they would not accept anybody, but said what needed to be done was to give Cortland County the time to do the evaluation in a proper way and that is why the state of emergency was issued by him.

The Monday following the Emergency Declaration on the 12th, Fitch called for an emergency meeting with Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms, Chief of the City of Cortland Police Paul Sandy, Cortland County Department of Social Services Commissioner Kristen Monroe, Cortland County Mental Health Director Sharon MacDougall, Legislators Beau Harbin and Paul Heider, and other key members to the county to have a discussion about the undocumented immigrants.

Fitch informed X101 News there are 73 vacancies in the county, which a majority of the vacancies are considered to be “key role” positions the county would need in order to accept the undocumented immigrants.

“What [would] the impacts be on DDS (Department of Social Services), what would the impacts be for mental health. The migration that they (immigrants) had going from their country to here (United States) been very stressful for people.” Fitch continued noting there would be mental health issues that would have to be addressed.

When it came to the question of housing for undocumented immigrants seeking asylum. Fitch said Cortland County is already struggling to house the people who are already in the county who need assistance due to the lack of housing available.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Cortland County also put into perspective the need to ensure a plan is in place as the pandemic coming unexpectedly led to the county having plans in different directions, which led to difficulties. Fitch noted there are now plans in place regarding the pandemic and stressed a plan needs to be made beforehand.

Currently, the county is looking at potential available jobs that would be available, and the potential cost to taxpayers in the county.

“If we don’t have a plan in place and Greyhound buses come to [the] Cortland County Office Building in the front. If we don’t have anything there. What is going to happen to the people that come off the bus? That’s our concern. Then where is the humanitarian there?” He said not wanting to have people end up going to the streets due to no plan in place.

This situation, like the pandemic, is something the county has never faced. Fitch additionally said this was not a reaction of any sort, but the need for not just Cortland County, but several surrounding counties to evaluate the situation and how to properly handle the influx of people.

Once a plan is put into place, Cortland County would then be able to ensure those who come are able to have a good way of life and are not left to fend for themselves in an unknown country.

“We would like to make sure that they do have jobs available and we feel there are jobs available. We want to make it as good a transition as we can, but the first thing we have to do we have to really evaluate to say how many can we support along with our other community.” Fitch said.

Neighboring Tompkins County, one of the counties that has not issued a state of emergency, stated they would only be able to currently accept 100 migrants to the county. Currently, New York City sees nearly 4,500 arrive daily.

Original story below:

Cortland County Issues State of Emergency Regarding Undocumented Immigrants

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