In the dead of night this past Memorial Day weekend, a bus arrived at a hotel in my Legislative District on Wolf Road, and with it a few dozen migrants or homeless folks from New York City.
Since then, a lot has changed, but the cause of this humanitarian crisis remains the same: the federal government’s failure or inability to deal with our broken system of immigration. As it becomes clear that there is no short term fix, municipalities across our nation like El Paso and New York City – and now even our own backyard of Albany County – have become the latest ‘border towns.’ Now we know there are 250 to 300 migrants and homeless who have come to Albany County in the last month from New York City – and there may be thousands more in the years ahead.
Last week, my colleagues and I made it clear that the taxpayers we represent deserve nothing but full transparency on this issue. We need to know what is and will be happening in our communities, and we need to know the financial impacts to County government as we craft our budgets in the coming months and years.
County Executive Dan McCoy has shown true leadership by issuing an Executive Order to try to plan for New York City’s efforts to outsource its migrant and homeless programs. A legislative package of bills I introduced last week will help further those common-sense goals. The first of these bills would require hotels, motels and other venues in our County to inform their local officials of any plans they may have to contract with other municipalities and house migrants or homeless individuals in our neighborhoods. The second would require County officials to paint a clear fiscal accounting of the impact these newly settled individuals will have on our budget, especially in the area of social services and other government benefits.
I want to be clear that this is not a partisan issue, and it’s not about being pro- or anti-immigrant – this is about transparency and fiscal accountability to the taxpayers and municipalities we represent.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the City of Albany or the Town of Colonie. Our communities have a right to know when migrants or homeless individuals are being resettled in our neighborhoods. At some point, New York City will stop paying, and Federal, State and County taxpayers will be held responsible for the continuation of services. If we authorize new funding in our budget, I hope we can prioritize Albany County seniors, veterans, and other safety net-eligible communities first.
I hope all of my colleagues and our community will get behind this common-sense initiative. As elected officials, it is our responsibility to act in the best interests of County residents and taxpayers.
Paul J. Burgdorf
Deputy Minority Leader
Albany County Legislature
This story appeared on page 6 of the July, 2023 print edition of the Colonie Spotlight