The governor and legislative leaders are still deciding whether there is enough common ground to be found in a slate of proposed bills to call a special session to deal with the influx of migrants into New York.
There are several proposals that have been introduced by Democrats who are in the majority in both houses.
Sen. Zellnor Myrie wants to create a New York City-based work permit program aimed at asylum seekers. Sen. Luis Sepulveda and Assembly Member Catalina Cruz want to shorten the time frame that asylum seekers must wait to apply for work permits. Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar is also pushing the state to issue work permits to asylum seekers. Additionally, she’s introduced a bill that would create a statewide coordinator of asylum seeker services.
However, there is no universal agreement over how to deal with the influx of migrants, even among Democrats in New York – an intraparty division encapsulated by two bills introduced by fellow Assembly Members Marianne Buttenschon and Jenifer Rajkumar.
Rajkumar, a close ally of New York City Mayor Eric Adams, has introduced a bill that would prohibit upstate counties from refusing to accept asylum seekers.
Buttonschon, an upstate Democrat from Marcy, has introduced a bill with Republican state Sen. Jim Tedisco that would prevent New York City from transferring migrants to upstate communities without their permission.
It’s this conflict that may explain, in part, why a special session is still up in the air.
“This is a crisis of epic proportions,” Rajkumar told Capital Tonight. “Services to New York City are going to be cut drastically. Just this Saturday, the mayor said there needs to be a 15 percent cut across all city agencies.”
But that argument has fallen flat on the ears of upstate county executives who this week met for their fall convention at Turning Stone Casino.
“NYSAC members oppose any legislation that would impact their home rule authority,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario. “And instead of attacking the rest of the state, the Assembly member should focus her energy on the federal government, where it properly belongs.”
“(Rajkumar) is making matters worse in an already tense situation. It’s one family. New York City is part of our family. But let’s be clear, we have to stop slinging arrows at each other and we have to stop suing each other,” he said.
Just this week, Oneida County extended a state of emergency originally put into place in May in anticipation of the expiration of a CDC order that “prohibits the introduction into congregate settings of non-citizens arriving from or through Mexico or Canada” without assessing the capabilities of those counties to house, feed and serve those non-citizens.
Rajkumar said she understands why upstate counties are opposed to her bill, but insists that New York City is the state’s economic engine, and as New York City goes, so goes the rest of the state.
“If New York City goes down, everybody goes down,” she said.
But in the next breath, Rajkumar said she understands the concerns of upstate counties.
“We don’t want to burden upstate counties in a way that would be difficult for them,” she said.
Rajkumar also sang the praises of her fellow Assembly member.
“I’m a huge fan of Marianne Buttenschon. She sits next to me in the Assembly chamber,” Rajkumar told Capital Tonight. “I do believe there is room to work out a compromise here between upstate and downstate, and find a solution that works for everybody.
“We need to hold a special session,” she concluded.