Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Gov. Hochul sending National Guard to Monroe, Erie Counties ‘at request of local leaders’ 

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — National Guard deployments are being processed for both Erie and Monroe Counties at the request of local leaders, according to a spokesperson with Governor Kathy Hochul’s office. The statement, in full, can be found below. This comes as more than 1,800 members of the state’s armed forces were sent to New York City to help with logistical and operational support in what’s being described as an asylum crisis downstate.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello issued a statement late Monday he had requested the National Guard, following suit with Erie County officials after two separate incidents where asylees were accused of committing sexual assault.

after two separate incidents where asylees were accused of committing sexual assault.

“Governor Hochul deployed more than 1,800 members of the National Guard to provide logistical and operational support at shelter sites in New York City, and has committed to meeting requests for National Guard for all counties that have welcomed asylum seekers. Additional National Guard deployments are in process for Erie and Monroe Counties, at the request of local leaders,” a spokesperson for the governor said.

Before the deployment was confirmed, News 8 spoke with Monroe County Legislator Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons who described feelings of shock and disappointment at the County Executive’s request of the services as crime in Rochester remains high.

“I was a little taken aback that in the height of all the violence in Rochester, I’ve been calling for the National Guard just for us! The incidents that have occurred [sic, in Erie County]….I’m not minimizing anything, that it would prompt our county to say we want the national guard as well. That was alarming and it was shocking to me to hear,” the 22nd district county representative said.

She is bilingual and runs a youth organization, Latino Youth Development and Resource Center, on North Clinton Avenue, one of the zip codes with the highest crime and poverty rates in the state, she says.

“Again, I live in an environment where there’s crime every single day so I’ve been asking for the national guard for us. So it’s unfortunate because just with that, it’s saying, these people are violent, and I saw everything but that. I saw folks that are confused, I saw carrying mothers, I saw families.”

Vazquez-Simmons was on-site at the Holiday Inn on State Street last week when the first round of migrant families arrived. The Holiday Inn had applied for and been approved by the county to shelter asylum seekers following a spring Executive Order requiring such plans be arranged. Many of the asylum seekers are from Spanish-speaking countries. Vazquez-Simmons says she met people from Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, and across Latin America.

It remains unclear if any additional families will be sent to Monroe County. Erie County says it will no longer accept asylum seekers at this time. The Asylum Seeker Upstate Influx Program is being run out of New York City. According to a New York Times report in July, the city had awarded a ‘no-bid’ $432 million contract to medical mobile company, DocGo, to handle the services and care of aslyees.

In speaking with aslyum seeking families in Spanish, Vazquez-Simmons says many, if not most, were confused, not sure where they were, and described sub-par conditions and treatment along the course of their journey. Some families, she explains, even described thinking they may have been kidnapped.

Vazquez-Simmons also explained an encounter with an employee of DocGo at the Holiday Inn, where she says they nearly tried to have her arrested for speaking with some families, until a bystander explained she is a county legislator.

“Conversations I’ve had with some of the families they say they want to go back to their home country. Apparently again, they’ve gone from California — they’ve been shipped all over. Zero communication. She had no idea where she was. She’s asking — where am I? I literally had to show her a map and show her where she was. She had no idea. She had no idea, she was like, oh so we’re not in the Bronx? She was just confused — and most of the families, the same thing – they just told us, get on the bus,” says Vazquez-Simmons.

“Most of the families, the same thing – they just told us, get on the bus and that has been their entire experience, is just get on a bus destination to be unknown. Could you imagine being in that situation where you’re getting on a bus in the middle of the night, with your children, because there’s tons of families that were part of that and you have no idea where you’re going? so just the thought of that — it was very troubling to hear some of these stories have endured.”

News 8 has repeatedly requested information, interviews and responses from DocGo, and have so far received the attached document in response.

Monroe County says County Executive Bello will address the National Guard deployment on Wednesday.

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