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Town of Riverhead declares pre-emptive state of emergency over asylum seekers

Riverhead declares state of emergency to keep away asylum seekers
Riverhead declares state of emergency to keep away asylum seekers 02:17

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. - On Long Island, one community has declared a state of emergency proactively, they say. 

They did it to keep away any possible buses of asylum seekers

Riverhead town leaders claim they are already helping people experiencing homelessness and needy families and cannot house any more. 

Riverhead is one of Long Island's most diverse communities, and home to Latino, Polish, Irish and African immigrants. 

"We wholeheartedly support legal immigration," Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. 

But the Republican leader said migrants crossing the border and bused from New York City will be turned away. Aguiar has declared a state of emergency. 

"It's a federal problem, it's a New York City problem, and don't bring it to Suffolk County. We are not capable," Aguiar said. 

Aguiar said several facilities in Riverhead agreed to sign New York City Mayor Eric Adams' contract that would pay for asylum seekers' housing for a year. She signed an executive order denying that. 

Aguiar said the three facilities that agreed to house immigrants would be put on notice that accepting them is a code violation, dealt with in the courts. 

She says schools, infrastructure and housing can't absorb an influx. 

Riverhead's Democratic chair says there is no influx. 

"I think she is fueling rumors to create fear in our community and a sense of alarm that thousands of people are coming here when it's not based on any fact," Laura Jens-Smith of the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee said. 

Make The Road New York said several hundred have arrived in 2023 to Long Island, and are receiving assistance. 

"Migrants coming into the island for the last couple of months already ... It's heartbreaking just to see the conditions many of them are currently in," Yaritza Mendez of Make The Road New York-Long Island said. 

In Riverhead, migrants are on the minds of many.

"This country has been based on an open arms policy, but we need the support behind it," one person said. 

"I don't think it's right to penalize people that opt to put them up," said another. 

"You can't just let in unvetted migrants by the thousands," one person said. 

Long Island's two county executives have not offered specifics on how they would deal with migrants and housing. 

"The Suffolk County Supervisors Association wants it understood that the issue regarding migrants and their placement in New York State is the sole responsibility of our FEDERAL government officials…the President, and both Houses of Congress. They all need to step up, stop finger pointing and finally figure out how to handle this issue. Fix the system like we have been asking them to do for years. It should not, and cannot be left to local governments to shoulder this burden, or take on the responsibility for this issue," the Suffolk County Supervisors Association said in a statement.

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