NYC Sues Counties Over Migrants

Putnam exec says city being ‘dishonest’

New York City last week filed a lawsuit against Putnam, Dutchess and 29 other counties that have issued orders barring the city from renting hotel rooms for migrants who have applied for asylum.

The lawsuit, filed June 7 in state court, alleges that executive orders issued by Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne, Dutchess County Executive William F.X. O’Neil and other officials violate state law and regulations that allow municipalities with a shortage of temporary housing to rent rooms in hotels in other areas. 

The city also accused upstate officials of disregarding state human-rights law, which bans discrimination in public accommodations based on “national origin, citizenship or immigration status,” and of violating the migrants’ rights to travel within a state under the U.S. Constitution. The legal action, which also names the Town of Riverhead on Long Island, is scheduled for a hearing on July 6. 

“This lawsuit aims to put an end to this xenophobic bigotry and ensure our state acts as one as we work together to manage this humanitarian crisis fairly and humanely,” said Eric Adams, New York City’s mayor.

Although Byrne issued a state of emergency on May 22, no asylum-seekers have been relocated to the county. However, on June 8 Byrne said that a “permitted temporary residence” had been contacted about “a six-month to five-year contract” to house migrants. 

No one from New York City contacted the county about housing asylum-seekers, Byrne said in a statement. He also defended his executive order because “it clearly states that ‘absent a shared-services agreement’ we will not allow NYC to set up what will become essentially homeless shelters within the borders of Putnam.

“This lawsuit constitutes another dishonest attempt by New York City to foist its responsibilities on other localities,” he said.

Dutchess became, on May 18, the third county to seek to prevent New York City from relocating migrants. That day, O’Neil declared a state of emergency and issued an order prohibiting any hotel from operating as an “emergency shelter, homeless shelter, rooming house or other overnight long-term shelter.” 

Dutchess also sued the Red Roof Inn on Route 9 in Poughkeepsie, which was preparing to rent rooms to New York City to house asylum-seekers. In a partial victory for the county, a state judge on May 23 temporarily ordered New York City to stop sending migrants to Dutchess but allowed 86 then housed at the Red Roof Inn to remain. 

New York City is calling the influx of more than 72,000 migrants over the last year a “humanitarian crisis” that forced it to open dozens of shelters to house individuals and families who, in many cases, have no local relatives or friends. 

As of June 2, New York counted more than 45,800 migrants in city shelters, many of them sent on buses by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to protest federal immigration policies. 

Hotel owners in Dutchess, Orange and Rockland have responded with their own federal lawsuit against the counties. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a separate federal lawsuit against Rockland County and Orange County, where migrants have been staying in two hotels in the Town of Newburgh. 

On June 6, Judge Nelson Roman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction against the executive orders in Rockland and Orange, ruling that the plaintiffs will likely succeed in proving the orders violate the U.S. Constitution. 

But Roman’s order was limited; it did not overturn temporary restraining orders issued by state judges in Dutchess, Orange and Rockland that bar New York City from placing more migrants at hotels in those counties.

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