NEW YORK — New York City filed a lawsuit against 30 New York state counties, including several in the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley, seeking to nullify recent executive orders barring asylum seekers from being temporarily housed within their borders.
The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court Wednesday, says that nearly half the state’s counties have “sought to wall off their borders” and have unlawfully sought to prevent the city from sending “even a small number of asylum seekers” to stay at private hotels within their borders amid a “major humanitarian crisis.”
Leaders from Saratoga, Fulton, Schoharie, Warren and Rensselaer counties are all named in the lawsuit, which states that the executive orders were issued without “any rational basis.”
“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, as we have done from the beginning and as we will continue to do,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement.
New York City has struggled to find housing for an influx of asylum seekers that began arriving last year when southern states, like Texas, began chartering bus loads of individuals seeking refuge — many who entered through the country’s southern border — to major cities across the country.
More than 17,000 asylum seekers arrived in New York City by October 2022, according to the lawsuit, which notes that the number has since reached more than 72,000, as of June 2. Between 600 and 900 individuals continue to arrive daily.
The issue was exacerbated last month, after a COVID-era federal immigration policy expired. Title 42 allowed immigration officials to turn away migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
Gov. Kathy Hochul issued an emergency order last month as a way to prepare for an influx of asylum seekers, calling the ongoing situation in New York City a “large-scale humanitarian crisis and emergency.”
Hochul’s order came as New York City announced plans to relocate hundreds of migrants to a handful of hotels in the Hudson Valley after Adams declared the city would be unable to take in any new arrivals. The city has opened more than 160 temporary shelters to house the displaced individuals.
The move prompted emergency declarations by local officials throughout the state, including Saratoga County, where a May 19 emergency order issued by Theodore Kusnierz, Jr., chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors, prohibits any municipality or business to transport or house migrants within the county without previous approval.
Those who violate the order face misdemeanor charges.
“Public safety and public health is imperiled due to the immediate danger of an extraordinary increase in the number of illegal immigrants, migrants and/or asylum seekers entering the County of Saratoga,” the order reads.
Christine Rush, a spokesperson for the county, declined a request for comment, citing the pending litigation.
Fulton and Schoharie counties issued similar orders on May 19. Representatives from both counties did not immediately return a request seeking comment.
Albany County is the only local municipality where any migrants have arrived from New York City, coming last month. The county, which is not named in the lawsuit, issued an emergency order last month but has since struck an agreement with New York City, according to the Times Union.
The lawsuit contends the emergency orders “obstruct, burden and prevent” the city from providing temporary shelter for asylum seekers, as required under state and federal regulations.
“These counties have attempted to close their doors instead of lending their assistance to New York City’s reasonable and lawful efforts to address this crisis. We are asking the court to declare these executive orders null and void, in order to provide asylum seekers shelter during these unprecedented times,” Sylvia Hinds-Radix, New York City Corporation Counsel, said in a statement.
Rensselaer County Executive McLaughlin, who issued a May 9 emergency order preventing businesses and municipalities from entering into contracts to house migrants, said the county is planning to fight the lawsuit.
“We have been informed that Rensselaer County will be sued by Mayor Adams and we look forward to answering his ridiculous lawsuit in court,” he said in a statement. “Mayor Adams is part of an effort to illegally flood our borders and upstate communities with migrants, and force upstate taxpayers to pick up the bill for their failed policies.”
McLaughlin added that the county will also seek to make the city cover its legal fees for the lawsuit.
“This lawsuit by NYC will cost Rensselaer County valuable taxpayer resources, and we plan on billing New York City for any costs incurred by our county in defending from the Adams attack,” he said.
News of the lawsuit comes after a federal judge on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction barring Rockland and Orange counties from enforcing emergency orders aimed at banning migrants from hotels within their borders. The counties were the first to receive migrants from New York City.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.