An Illegal Immigration Problem, in Upstate New York

Two thousand miles from the border, Syracuse finds itself in an immigration debate.

The immigration rallies — the protesters and the buses of undocumented immigrants that upended Southern California in early July — had already been on the news for a week when, 2,000 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner got an e-mail:

“Dear Mayor Miner,” began the letter sent July 9 from a federal official. “We wanted to alert you that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and General Services Administration is conducting an assessment of 2500 Grant Blvd. to determine whether it may be used as a facility for temporarily housing children who have come into the United States without an adult guardian.”

The address belonged to a convent. A former campus of the Sisters of St. Francis, a bundle of brick buildings behind wooden fences. The nuns had decided to relocate to the suburbs, taking with them their sister-run chocolate shop and listing the property on a government real estate site. The final residents moved out in June. All that was left was 226,000 feet of usable space in the center of a neighborhood that had seen better days.

And now a discussion about an immigration crisis taking place so far away had landed tangibly and specifically in the Northside neighborhood of Syracuse.

Daniel Luzer is GOVERNING's news editor.
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