Legislators also approve ‘rule of law’ designation

In a meeting punctuated by impassioned arguments, the Putnam Legislature Wednesday night (July 5) voted 7-1 to prevent New York City from using in-county lodging to house migrants, unless Putnam first grants permission.

Added to the county laws, the shelter ban stipulates that “no municipality outside of Putnam County may offer or provide temporary housing within Putnam, thereby creating a homeless shelter, without first entering into a shared services agreement” with the county.

By a second 7-1 vote, the legislators also passed a resolution declaring Putnam a “rule of law” county and pledging cooperation with federal immigration police to identify “arrested felons and gang-associated” individuals suspected of violating entry laws.” The resolution also emphasized that Putnam “is not a sanctuary county” (one not actively pursuing immigration-law violators).

That vote enshrined as policy temporary executive orders that County Executive Kevin Byrne began issuing in May as New York City started using hotels in the lower Hudson Valley to house a surge of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.

Byrne justified the orders as necessary “to protect life and property” because of a “reasonable apprehension of immediate danger” in Putnam, where, so far, New York City has not placed migrants.     

Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley as the nine-person Legislature’s sole Democrat, cast the two “no” votes, at the formal monthly session in Carmel.

Before the meeting, residents seeking entry formed a line that snaked around the side of the building. Once inside, they packed the chamber, where some shouted out vitriolic comments, prompting Legislature Chair Paul Jonke of Southeast to threaten at least twice to clear the room. Similar outbursts occurred at the Legislature’s Rules Committee review of the shelter ban and Byrne policies on June 21.

Concern began building in May after New York notified outlying counties that it might rent rooms in their hotels and motels to relieve pressure on the city’s shelter system. Adding to the turmoil, some Republican-led states, objecting to federal immigration approaches, have transported migrants to New York City and other areas led by Democrats.

To respond, Byrne’s executive orders demanded the shared-services agreements and claimed he “may use any and all facilities, equipment, supplies, personnel, and other resources,” including village and town police officers, zoning enforcers, fire departments, and others, to implement the rules.

Montgomery on Wednesday sharply criticized the measures. She described the law’s definition of a homeless shelter as “really vague,” and said it’s not clear if the definition applies to a hotel that rents one room to a homeless person, or to an Airbnb proprietor who offers free units to Ukrainian refugees.

It’s “bad law, not well thought out, leaving us wide open to being sued again and again,” she said. “We can’t afford it” and it “will fail to protect the resources that belong to the residents of Putnam County.”

She also said the law violates the U.S. Constitution because Putnam intends “to prevent immigrants from relocating to the county” and that Byrne’s assertions of a right to use village police forces and other local resources overreaches, she said.

“What in the [U.S.] Constitution gives this power?” asked Montgomery, who read a letter from Cold Spring Mayor Kathleen Foley that raised related questions.

The meeting triggered the same emotional outbursts that characterized discussion of the law and resolution at the earlier Rules Committee meeting, which Montgomery claimed a mob interrupted.

When Montgomery said the measures speculate that migrants “are criminals,” when “they are individuals, just like you and me,” attendees yelled at her: “No they’re not. They’re criminals.”

Views of two Philipstown residents who addressed the Legislature differed.

Montgomery “calls us” — supporters of the county stance — “a mob, and then accuses us of being divisive,” Cindy Trimble said. She praised the other legislators and Byrne “for putting the residents of Putnam first, not allowing any outside municipality, in this case, New York, to dump their problems on us, creating an economic burden and public safety risk.”

However, James Adams noted that asylum-seekers are permitted to remain in the country and work, while their applications are pending. “We should only be so lucky” to get them, he said, given a need to meet increasing demands as the U.S. population ages. “That’s what keeps us going,”

Residents from other towns disagreed.

“We cannot support this influx of illegal aliens,” a Mahopac man said. “We’re talking about tens of millions of illegal aliens” competing for U.S. jobs.

“These are not asylum-seekers,” another Mahopac resident contended. And “we’re not getting their best,” from foreign nations. “We’re getting their worst,” including child-traffickers, he said.

Marilyn Miller, an ambulance staffer in Brewster, said that migrants “are taking EMS calls away from our citizens” and that women in the village cannot walk on the street without encountering “catcalls and lewd gestures.” Drunkenness and public urination abounds, said Miller.

But a woman who gave her name as Linda, who had helped organize Putnam’s Juneteenth celebration, said advocates of the ban were “using New York City as a scapegoat” instead of targeting governors of other states, who, “shirking their duties,” send migrants to north instead of addressing the matter directly.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as Philipstown.info) in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government

10 replies on “Putnam Passes Measure Targeting Migrants”

  1. We are so politically split like the rest of this sad country. Can you imagine, these families had to leave the harshness of their war-torn country and have tried to find a safe place to be. Migrants? They are folks just like you and me. They are not criminals. The cruelty of the the MAGA crowd, headed by Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne, is repulsive. We have only one woman, Nancy Montgomery, who counters these frightening views that lack compassion, love or goodness. It is difficult to hear these MAGA souls sprouting their lunacy. I am disgusted with the right-wing, ugly views coming from Byrne, Rep. Mike Lawler and the Putnam legislators. They are moving very close to fascism and are frightening in what is being displayed. I am a refugee from Nazi Germany and it is happening all over again.

  2. On July 5, the Putnam County Legislature voted to make permanent the county executive’s order to curb an imaginary mgrant crisis in Putnam.

    As a result, Putnam has essentially declared itself an anti-sanctuary, “rule-of-law” county, and has ensured that our taxpayer dollars will be spent fighting a lawsuit with New York City because the order and the policy passed by the Legislature are unconstitutional and go far beyond the authority of a county government.

    New York City has stated in its lawsuit, and repeatedly elsewhere, that any migrants relocated to other counties would be housed at the city’s expense. The assertion that we would be paying for any of this is a lie meant to stoke the Legislature’s base — and base they are. At the meeting, people came flaunting shirts with expressions such as “We don’t owe illegals anything,” and “Punisher” symbolism as they booed and shouted over people trying to speak.

    We already have no homeless shelters in Putnam. This order would restrict them further, and also would attempt to regulate private businesses — total unconstitutional overreach.

    In the comments I tried to deliver over the shouts of those in favor of the policy, and eye-rolling from legislators, I noted that the stream of accusations being made about “illegals” coming here to bring crime and threaten our safety are ludicrous. These people are coming here the right way. They are asylum-seekers. They are here legally.

    Many were professionals in their home countries, like Venezuela, which has experienced economic collapse, or they are fleeing poverty and destruction due to natural disasters and political unrest. To suggest, like the legislators did, that we need this order because we are “struggling to survive” here (Legislator Erin Crowley), or are under some kind of imminent threat of “busloads of people” being sent to Putnam (Legislator William Gouldman) is insane.

    New York City has sued Putnam and 30 other counties passing these unconstitutional executive orders, and has already won federal injunctions against the orders in Rockland and Orange counties. That is because, while the county executive and Legislature hilariously attempt to declare this a constitutional and rule-of-law county, they are trampling all over the Constitution.

    A “shared services agreement” is a ploy to ensure that migrants will never be admitted here, since the county government would clearly never approve such an agreement.

  3. One-party rule in Putnam is not only a risk to democracy and good government, but it is now actually cannibalizing the freedom of our town governments and small businesses to make their own decisions.

    In a veil of anti-immigrant hate, the county executive’s legislation — rubber-stamped by eight of nine legislators — seeks to usurp the power of duly elected municipalities, undermining local zoning ordinances to impose the political agenda of an uncontested executive with aspirations to climb the MAGA ladder by demonizing legal immigrants and asylum-seekers.

    To date, there have been no requests for Putnam to take asylum-seekers, and even if they came, they would be accompanied by federal, state and city funding. This is a hypothetical mischaracterized problem with a large legal price tag. There will be lawsuits, and Putnam County taxpayers will foot the bill when those lawsuits come. Hate and fearmongering can be expensive when you are forced to defend them in court.

    As they did on Jan. 6, the MAGA zealots who showed up to disparage immigrants and bully their fellow citizens at these county Legislature meetings showed a predictable lack of decorum and disregard for facts. Is this who the county executive thinks he serves? Who recruited these mobs who brought their flags and their hate to shout down the debate?

    Putnam residents need to realize what this one-party government is doing right here, in meetings that are conveniently not streamed to the public. The only way to shine light at the dark shadows of tyranny is to break up the one-party rule and elect a government that reflects and respects our diverse American heritage and gives a voice to all Putnam residents.

    Colamonico chairs the Putnam County Democratic Committee.

  4. We work with a nonprofit in the Bronx (where Stan grew up) that has a contract with New York City to house asylum seekers (mostly Venezuelan but also from various African countries). We have rented a building in the northernmost Bronx to house, feed, clothe and generally aid almost 200 families.

    The city reimburses us for all costs as they would for any asylum seeker who might come to Putnam County. I should note that the city has never proposed that any should come.

    Our experience has been that virtually all of the adults have already found jobs, off the books (as it takes so long to gain proper documentation), do not accept the food offered as they prefer to support themselves with their earnings and that the children are attending school. These asylum seekers have come with skills and are anxious to put them to use and work.

    Many families have already left our housing facility to join relatives or friends elsewhere. They have been replaced by other families.

    These asylum seekers are like my grandparents and probably like your relatives who came to America fleeing oppression and or economic deprivation and seeking safer and better lives. Please think about the kind of dire circumstance that would make you leave your home and everything you know and take a perilous journey of thousands of miles risking your very life.

    We should do all we can to help them as our predecessors were helped. The recent Putnam County legislative attempt to prevent asylum seekers from entering Putnam County and promoting fear may be unconstitutional, will definitely lead to legal action and our tax dollars being used in the name of an action that is certainly shameful and mean and against all religious and humanist teachings.

    I hope we all understand what is going on in our names and supposedly on our behalf in the Putnam County Legislature and will commend and support our brave legislator Nancy Montgomery who has withstood horrible heckling as she speaks out against this. Contact County Executive Kevin Byrne to express your opinion on this new policy.

  5. Without purporting to solve the complex issues related to housing asylum-seekers in Putnam County motels, it is worth noting the irony of Kevin Byrne (an Irishman?) and other officials whose ancestors were the victims of virulent anti-Catholic, anti-Irish and anti-Italian discrimination and hatred in the past. For example, during the 19th century, there were several historical sources of anti-Irish immigration publications in the U.S., including The Nativist (1844-1855), published in New York City, which Irish immigrants and criticized their cultural practices, political influence, and perceived threat to American society; The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk (1836), purportedly written by a former nun, which claimed to expose the alleged immoral and criminal activities within Catholic convents, including those involving Irish immigrants; The Times (1851-1853), published in New York City, which often portrayed Irish immigrants as violent, criminal and incapable of assimilation; the Know-Nothing Party (aka the American Party), which emerged in the mid-19th century and was characterized by its strong anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic stance; the Native American Party (1844-1856), a precursor to the Know-Nothing Party, which expressed concerns about Irish Catholic immigration.

    History repeats itself, here by former victims of discrimination who are eager to turn their enmity to the latest wave of immigrants, using the same tired cliches to demonize them as their own ancestors were demonized.

  6. These are human beings in serious need. So much for generous and caring Americans. What is wrong with you people? [via Instagram]

  7. The prayer before [our] meetings makes this particular issue particularly bizarro. [via Instagram]

    Montgomery represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley on the Putnam County Legislature.

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