Modified: August 12, 2023 12:10pm
The following is a statement from Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz regarding a recent incident that took place inside of a hotel in the town of Cheektowaga that involved an asylum seeker who previously arrived in Erie County via New York City:
"Yesterday afternoon, I was advised of a serious incident involving an asylum seeker being housed at a Cheektowaga hotel. As was described by Cheektowaga Police Chief Brian Gould, a suspect is now in custody. I thank Chief Gould and his team with the Cheektowaga Police Department for their quick response to this matter, as well as the team from Erie County District Attorney John Flynn’s Office for their work with the investigation.
Since the incident occurred, I have been in contact with New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray and New York City Mayor Eric Adams, among others. All agree the alleged incident is reprehensible and the safety of the community is paramount.
I demanded that Mayor Adams pause all further transportation of asylum seekers to our community until such time as we can resolve all security issues. He agreed and informed me they will not send any additional persons to Erie County at this time. We also discussed the need for a new and improved security plan, especially considering DocGo, the third party hired by New York City to run the hotel operations, may have interfered with this investigation. Mayor Adams agreed that we need to address all security concerns with the hotels. We have already begun discussing ways to increase security and reduce any threat to our community.
One such way has already been agreed to by Governor Hochul. The governor has agreed to place National Guard members at each of the hotels to act as a stabilizing presence. As stated to me this morning, it will take a day or two for the National Guard members to arrive, but they will soon be present. I thank Governor Hochul and Commissioner Bray for offering this assistance to further assure that the safety of the entire community comes first. Additionally, I joined Chief Gould in calling for the closure of the Dingens Street facility and for full reimbursement by New York City to the town of Cheektowaga for all costs associated with securing these hotels. We were not advised of the placement of asylum seekers in the Dingens Street hotel until it occurred. It is not a suitable location and should be closed.
As we have done for years, Erie County opened its arms to try and welcome these new Americans. Unfortunately there is no way to make the program as presently run sustainable. Two serious, violent crimes in two weeks are two too many. Our refugee agencies did their best to provide support and assistance, but our community's trust and good faith have been betrayed. We were assured of safety, security, and proper screening. Clearly that hasn't been done. Refugee agencies, local workers, and others should not and cannot work under the present security conditions. New York City needs to fix this. Erie County will continue to welcome refugees and those seeking shelter under the traditional programs, just as we have for years. These recent incidents shouldn't color attitudes toward our New American neighbors.
Finally, Erie County, the town of Cheektowaga and the state cannot solve what is essentially a federal issue. The Biden Administration and the United States Congress must act on this and truly implement comprehensive immigration reform."