Elmira/Corning Regional Airport

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Sikorsky Site Eyed For Immigration Center

Written By: Asha McKenzie
Sikorsky Site Eyed For Immigration Center


BIG FLATS (WENY) -- With the overwhelming amount of immigrants coming from Central America, FEMA is looking for holding center throughout the country.
     They set their sights on the a vacant Airport hangar, an old Sikorsky building to house those undocumented immigrants. But airport administrators say it is no place for anyone to live.
     "The more that I try to just imagine people living in that, the more of a horrible idea it sounds like to me," said Ann Crook, manager at the Elmira/Corning Regional Airport.
     Red flags were raised When FEMA set it's sights on the vacant Sikorsky airport hangar in big flats to house thousands of undocumented immigrants from Central America.
     Ann Crook, manager of the Elmira Corning RegionalAirport says turning the building into a processing center would be a breech in safety.
     With the facilities complete access to the tarmac and runways, it would be against the Federal Aviation Administration rules. 
     "Everyone that works at the airport has to have this background criminal check and their fingerprints taken," said Crook. "So now all of a sudden, opening that up to all of these undocumented immigrants changes all of that."
     When the building closed in 2012, Chemung County was told by the FAA that it could only be used for aviation business any other proposals would be rejected.
     Since FEMA's discovery of the vacant building, the FAA explained housing undocumented immigrants would be an inappropriate use of the facility. 
     "We all realize it's a crisis, there's a lot of people in need," said Chemung County Executive, Tom Santulli. "But we're not equipped to do this, our building is not equipped to do this. We could never fit the guidelines the federal government set for us anyway."
     If the county went through with FEMA's proposal, thousands of dollars in maitenance would be needed to make it an environment suitable for living.
     "Housing, feeding, where do they go when they're processed? "We're a small community. You would have to have a lot of resources."
     County officials say, they have not received a formal letter from FEMA stating they will no longer be using the building.
     FEMA issued a statement saying, "In order to enhance the capability to transition unaccompanied children from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, facilities are being identified by the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. General Services Administration as potential location to increase medical care and temporary sheltering capacity of HHS."