https://www.theepochtimes.com/new-york-county-executive-seeks-transparency-in-federal-flights-carrying-illegal-immigrant-minors_4791470.html

Orange County executive Steven Neuhaus is frustrated that he got no advance notice about federal flights carrying illegal immigrant minors to his county in the past two weeks.

The flights landed at Orange County Airport—a small non-commercial airport about 75 miles north of Manhattan, New York—which is owned and operated by the county.

“I get that it’s controversial—these are not U.S. citizens, and their status is in question. But by coming into our county like this, it just adds … an aura of secrecy and controversy,” Neuhaus told The Epoch Times on Oct. 11.

“The federal government really needs to be more forthcoming and transparent with local officials and the public and answer our questions,” he said.

Orange County executive Steven Neuhaus delivers his state of the county address in Montgomery on Sept. 30, 2016. (Holly Kellum/Epoch Times)

The first batch of flights was noticed in the late afternoon on Sept. 30 by residents living near the airport. They saw a group of minors exit a plane and board a nearby bus.

One alert citizen called 911, triggering responses from sheriff deputies, who pulled over the bus and questioned the adults aboard.

The adults wouldn’t give details of the trip; one of them claimed that what they were doing was “classified,” according to a report by county district attorney David Hoovler on his public Facebook page.

Later a federal employee arrived and assured local officials that it was a legitimate federal operation and that none of the children—having been flown from El Paso, Texas—would be placed in Orange County, Neuhaus said.

Neuhaus bought McDonald’s meals for the children before sending them off onto the highway, he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Small airplanes and jets line up at the Orange County Airport in Montgomery, N.Y., on Oct. 11, 2022. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

A second batch of federally chartered planes carrying illegal minors from Texas landed on the night of Oct. 7.

Neuhaus quickly arrived after receiving a notification about the first plane. Watching the second landing, he got a call from a Texas-based regional office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services informing him about the flights.

“I think they could have done a lot better. We don’t know which federal agencies are transporting these children, where these children are going, or who they are going to be housed with.

“As a county, we run emergency services, and we also run child protective services. We could have been of more help had we been notified by the federal government,” Neuhaus said.

“You’ve seen a lot of people from all sides—even people that are maybe more liberal—that are questioning what’s going on here. We need to know more,” he added.

Federal employees present at the airport told Neuhaus that those children would be bussed to cities outside Orange County, such as Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and New York. But he wasn’t sure if he was told the truth, Neuhaus said.

He reached out to federal and state officials for more information but has got none so far.

Following the two sets of flights, Neuhaus got a letter from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, asking whether Orange County can help house runaway and homeless immigrants, according to an Oct. 11 video update on his public Facebook page.

Early this year, the county airport completed a $30 million runway realignment project, which is the largest improvement it ever had since its original construction by the U.S. Army during the 1940s.

Federal money covered 90 percent of the project cost, the rest was split equally between the state and county.

Cara Ding

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Cara is an Orange County, New York-based Epoch Times reporter. She can be reached at cara.ding@epochtimes.com

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