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EDITORIAL: Buenos dias



DID YOU KNOW that Columbia County is under a state of emergency? The declaration announcing the emergency was issued at noon Wednesday, May 24, 2023, by Matt B. Murell, chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.

The declaration says that federal policy has caused too many immigrants and foreign asylum seekers to gather in New York City. So New York City plans to send some of these travelers somewhere else “… outside of and nearby New York City, including Columbia County,” Chairman Murell said.

The chairman’s declaration reminded city and federal officials that Columbia County has “drastically less population, service providers [and] housing providers” compared to New York City. This makes Columbia County “incapable of receiving and sustaining the volume of migrants and/or asylum seekers that New York City may or intends to deliver….” Chairman Murell also let our downstate (New York) neighbors know that “Columbia County is already facing significant shortages in housing, medical care and transportation; together with a growing homeless population.”

Mr. Murell ®, the supervisor of the Town of Stockport, says that in an emergency, state law gives him more powers than he would normally have as chief executive of Columbia County So, he said, “I have

exercised the authority given to me under New York State Executive Law, Article 2-B, to preserve

Public Safety and hereby render all required and available assistance vital to the security, well-being,

and health of the citizens of this community.”

The 37-page Section of State of New York Executive Law cited by Mr. Murell does not appear to address the redistribution of immigrants at our doorstep. But it does mention “local disasters as including… rioting, catastrophe or similar public emergency.” What is clear is that Mr. Murell is the local official authorized to make the Emergency Declaration.

But his emergency declaration ends awkwardly, leaving readers uncertain whether it’s meant to be helpful advice or a threat when it says: “Additional local Emergency Orders will be promulgated by the Chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors during this State of Emergency to further protect the life and property and to bring the emergency condition (s) under control.”

Chairman Murell took a prudent step last week if he knew how many immigrants and asylum seekers to prepare for. But where is this foreign threat and how would we know them from our children and grandchildren save for the language barrier?

County residents might have nodded their heads when the declaration listed the services and facilities this county lacks. But what if, among these guests allegedly heading here, there are nurses, teachers, veterinarians, mechanics, scientists and musicians. Or maybe it’s a bus filled with people fleeing endless cycles of cruelty. How could we convince them to stay?

This county has an Emergency Response Team whose job is to identify and protect county residents from all types of threats. Maybe that group can issue an assessment of immigrants, determining how many is too many for our county to handle.

But what this “emergency” should tell us is how far we must go to protect the county from the very real and immediate threat from climate change. We can’t send the climate back to where it came from and it won’t obey our laws. Let’s keep the focus where it belongs.

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