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Debate over asylum seekers heats up in WNY

As of Monday, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says he does not know of any plans for asylum seekers to come to the city.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As thousands of migrants arrive in New York City, the debate is heating up here in Western New York as to how to handle the situation if asylum seekers also come here.

Several counties in Western New York have already declared states of emergency ahead of asylum seekers potentially coming here. Erie County is not one of them, and that has caused political debate. 

As counties in Western New York declared states of emergency over the migrant crisis at the southern border, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted this weekend that he would not be declaring one calling the orders both "illegal" and "morally repugnant." 

That prompted his GOP opponent in this year's race to hold a press conference on Monday calling on him to issue an action plan.

"I would be transparent as far as who's coming. I would make sure that there's a program in place for vetting, and I would be transparent about how, if and how, we can afford this, and that's not happening right now," said Chrissy Casilio, candidate for Erie County Executive.

A spokesperson for Poloncarz declined 2 On Your Side's interview request on Monday and told us on Monday afternoon that nothing has changed from the administration's point of view, and until it does, the statement from the weekend will stand for itself.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said as of now he does not know of any plans for asylum seekers to come to the city.

"We've been in communication with the federal government, with the state government, you know, we have asked if there is any potential for asylum seekers to come here, for us to be notified. We have not been notified that that is in the plan, or that is happening, at this point," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

2 On Your Side also spoke with a member of the New York Immigration Coalition on Monday, a statewide organization that advocates for immigrant and refugee communities across the state.

"We know that as a community, when we welcome refugees, and we welcome newcomers, we can all really thrive and we see that success from rebounding from population decline here in the city to seeing new businesses and revitalizing neighborhoods," said Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar, Director of Organizing & Strategy, Upstate, New York Immigration Coalition.

Maloney de Zaldivar also commented on the statement released by Poloncarz this weekend. 

"I just want to applaud our County Executive Poloncarz who really affirmed that our community can and should welcome new arrivals, and that is important to have that leadership as we've seen so much hate and racism that has come with this most recent wave of arrivals," said Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar.

And Monday morning, the Governor was asked about this saying she is grateful to people like Poloncarz who she says understand that Buffalo's population has gone up because of refugees. Hochul says it is a way to boost the population and build the economy.

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