Riverhead declares state of emergency after 3 facilities strike potential deal to house migrants

The influx of migrants is related to the expiration of Title 42, which, due to the pandemic, allowed border authorities to stop migrants.

Caroline Flynn and Kevin Vesey

May 17, 2023, 9:45 AM

Updated 334 days ago

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A state of emergency has been declared in Riverhead as migrants could be arriving soon at three facilities in the town.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar declared the state of emergency Tuesday in connection to undocumented migrants and/or asylum seekers expected to be coming to hotel or motels within the town. The state of emergency bans all facilities - including hotels, motels, homeless shelters and other transient lodging units - from accepting migrants in the town of Riverhead.
The influx of migrants is related to the expiration of Title 42, which, due to the pandemic, allowed border authorities to stop migrants.
Aguiar told News 12 that New York City Mayor Eric Adams sent out an advisory communication to all housing facilities in Suffolk County to accept the individuals, and that the city would pay for their housing for up to a year and sign contracts with facilities that agreed.
Aguiar says three Riverhead facilities agreed to house individuals and offered to sign the contract. As a preemptive measure, she decided to create an executive order to say that the community could not handle the influx of migrants.
"It's going to tax our schools that are already overwhelmed, it'll probably increase the crime rate because these individuals are going to be hungry in the street and they need shelter," Aguiar says. "It's going to tax police; it's going to tax the hospitals. The infrastructure component, we don't have it."
Aguiar says she isn't aware of how many migrants would be sent to Riverhead, or when.
Homelessness has been a hot topic in Riverhead, where penalties for panhandling and sleeping on the sidewalk were raised due to complaints from local businesses. Many residents agreed with the town supervisor, expressing concern about overcrowding and the burden it would put on the community.
Some residents, however, say migrants who are escaping violence and persecution in their homelands should be given a chance.
"This is what this land is for - opportunities," says Debra Misuraca, of Riverhead. "So, why not? Everybody deserves a break, not just the people who live here."
Aguiar wouldn't say which facilities agreed to house migrants but says the facilities were put on notice Tuesday evening and that to house them would be a violation of code.
"They're not supposed to accept them and that's something we would deal with in the courts," Aguiar told News 12.
Despite that warning, executive director of Maureen's Haven Dan O'Shea, says he would do whatever he can to help migrants who come to his door. The nonprofit is a homeless outreach organization that connects people with food, clothing and medical care.
"We do everything in our power to not turn people away who are seeking support services and our roles is to really help as many people as we can regardless of their immigration status," O'Shea says.
Aguiar acknowledged that no migrants had been sent to Riverhead as of Wednesday evening.
Aguiar says she is following the lead of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Westchester officials who have already stated that they will not participate in sanctuary programs.
Other town supervisors in Suffolk County issued a joint bipartisan statement, saying the job of handling the immigration crisis should fall on the federal government and not local municipalities. They are demanding the issue gets fixed at the federal level.


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