New York City sued more than 30 municipalities and local leaders mostly in upstate New York on Wednesday, alleging they "have sought to wall off their borders" through emergency orders that obstruct the city's efforts to relocate migrants upstate "in a manner that is explicitly permitted by law and required by a statewide emergency."
Filed Wednesday, the suit asks the state Supreme Court to invalidate the emergency orders filed by the counties under the grounds that they are unconstitutional. It also asks to prohibit the locales from taking steps that "restrict or frustrate" New York City's efforts to address a statewide emergency, which Gov. Kathy Hochul declared on May 9.
What You Need To Know
- A federal judge ruled that Orange and Rockland's executive orders barring the busing of migrants into their counties was discriminatory and unconstitutional
- 24 hours later, New York City sued 30 counties and municipalities across the state
- The city is asking the court to declare each of those counties’ executive orders barring migrants, null and void
In the suit, attorneys representing New York City said the city has been overwhelmed by asylum seekers, straining its ability to provide shelter. In response, it said, the city sought vacant hotel rooms outside city limits to provide temporary shelter.
At least 30 counties in the state have issued emergency declarations and executive orders barring sheltering migrants; four counties, including Rockland, Orange, Dutchess and Onondaga counties, have filed lawsuits against the city; and towns have filed suits against hotels.
Named as defedants in the suit are:
- Rockland County and Executive Ed Day
- Orange County and Executive Steve Neuhaus
- Dutchess County and Executive William O'Neil
- Onondaga County and Executive Ryan McMahon
- Broome County and Executive Jason Garnar
- Cayuga County and Legislature Chairman David Gould
- Chautauqua County and Executive Paul Wendel Jr.
- Cheming County and Executive Chris Moss
- Cortland County and Legislaure Chair Kevin Fitch
- Delaware County and Board of Supervisors Chair Tina Mole
- Fulton County and Board of Supervisors Chair Scott Horton
- Genesee County and Manager L. Matthew Landers
- Greene County and Legislature Chair Patrick Linger
- Herkimer County and Legislature Chair Vincent Bono
- Madison County and Board of Supervisors Chair John Becker
- Niagara County and Legislature Chair Rebecca Wydysh
- Oneida County and Executive Anthony Picente
- Orleans County and Legislature Chair Lynne Johnson
- Oswego County and Legislature Chairman James Weatherup
- Otsego County and board Chairman David Bliss
- Putnam County and Executive Kevin Byrne
- Rensselaer County and Executive Steve McLaughlin
- Town of Riverhead and Supervisor Yvette Aguiar
- Saratoga County and Board of Supervisors Chair Ted Kusnierz
- Schoharie County and Board of Supervisors Chair William Federice
- Schuyler County and Legislature Chair Carl Blowers
- Suffolk County and Executive Steve Bellone
- Sullivan County and Manager Joshua Potosek
- Tioga County and Legislature Chair Martha Sauerbrey
- Warren County Board of Supervisors Chair Kevin Geraghty
- Wyoming County and Board of Supervisors Chair Rebecca Ryan
The battle between the city and some upstate leaders started last month when Rockland County declared a state of emergency after its leaders said they discovered New York City's plan to bus migrants to a hotel in the county.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day said the county had received no communication from the city or state, and it wasn't equipped to deal with such a large, sudden influx of people.
New York City argues the emergency orders are unconstitutional because they seek to impede asylum seekers' right to travel and stay in hotels, and the orders prohibit public accommodations to persons because of their national origin, citizenship, or immigration status.
The city’s suit came a day after a federal judge ruled in favor of the New York Civil Liberties Union and against Orange and Rockland counties for issuing executive orders meant to discourage the long-term housing of migrants in hotels and motels the areas.
In that federal case, the court called the Orange and Rockland counties orders discriminatory and barred them from being enforced.
Amy Belsher, senior staff attorney for the NYCLU, said she was relieved but not surprised.
“We were likely to succeed on a number of our claims, including discrimination claims under the Constitution, claims about our plaintiff's right to travel under the Constitution and that the executive orders that Rockland and Orange County have issued violate the Civil Rights Act,” she said.
Last week, attorneys for the two counties argued their orders were valid, saying they were made in response to New York City’s busing. The judge ruled the city’s actions were not an excuse to issue the executive orders.
“If our regulation, if our government program, is unconstitutional for some reason because it mentions the word asylum seekers in response to the cities program, then is not the city's program also unconstitutional?" said Thomas Humbach, an attorney for Rockland County.
Belsher said the NYCLU will now monitor other counties and towns who issued similar executive orders that could be discriminatory.
“We hope that this decision from a federal court encourages those counties and municipalities to rescind their orders, given they are unconstitutional in so many very ways, and also violate the Civil Rights Act," she said. "But short of that, we're not ruling out further litigation.”
A statement from an Orange County spokesperson said while they disagreed with the ruling, “the important result of that ruling is that nothing really changes as a practical matter at the present time.”
The federal ruling against Rockland and Orange counties is a narrow one affecting only those two counties’ executive orders. It does not affect the current injunction they and other counties have against the city’s migrant busing program, which the state Supreme Court is continuing to let stand.