NEW YORK (AP) — Officials in Rockland County, where New York City’s mayor wants to send migrants for a four-month hotel stay, vowed to fight the plan Monday through fines and a state of emergency.
“We are not equipped to humanely assist these individuals, which eventually we’re going to have to do,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said at a news conference where he was joined by U.S. Rep Michael Lawler and other officials opposed to the plan.
Day, a Republican, called Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to bus up to 300 single adult male migrants to hotels in Rockland and neighboring Orange counties “the same as throwing people out to the middle of the ocean who can’t swim and saying ‘go to shore.’ It can’t work.”
Lawler, a Republican whose Hudson Valley district includes Rockland County, said he was “vehemently opposed to this plan which would shift the cost for housing, food and health care for folks who may be here illegally on to Rockland County and our municipalities.”
Adams, a Democrat, announced the plan Friday to bus migrants to the two counties north of the city on a voluntary basis. He said the program would help the city handle the more than 37,500 asylum seekers in the city’s care.
Adams announced the plan as cities across the U.S. prepare for a surge in migrants seeking asylum when a pandemic-era policy that permitted the expulsion of many migrants ends. Officials anticipate that the end of the immigration limits under Title 42 of a 1944 public health law will mean more migrants trying to cross the southern border.
Adams said the migrants sent from New York City to Rockland and Orange counties would be provided with meals, counseling and other services for a stay of up to four months in the hotels.
Adams’ news release did not name the hotels where migrants would be sent, but Day and Orangetown Supervisor Teresa Kenny said they had learned that the Armoni Inn and Suites in the hamlet of Orangeburg had been selected.
Kenny said housing migrants there for four months would violate the town’s ordinance limiting hotel stays to 30 days.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Mayor, you don’t trump our laws,” said Kenny, who joined Day at a news conference in New City, the county seat. “We have our own town code, so the town is prepared to commence legal action.”
A message seeking comment was left with the Armoni.
In a letter obtained by PIX11 News sent out by New York City’s Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack, she is calling on city agencies to review their properties.
“With more asylum seekers arriving daily, this influx has pushed our shelter system to a breaking point and we need to create emergency temporary sites. We ask that City agencies conduct an internal review of any properties or spaces in your portfolio that may be available to be repurposed to house asylum seekers as temporary shelter spaces. If there is current programming please include what programming that is,” Varlack said in an email.
Varlack also outlined the key criteria for the large temporary shelters the city is looking for:
- 10,000 square feet minimum
- Large available open layout spaces i.e., gyms, recreational centers, or residential centers like dorms.
- Contained within a building
- No known health hazards
- Secure space with 24/7 access
- Running water
In addition to calling on agencies to provide a list of available properties, Varlack is also seeing volunteers to staff the emergency shelters for 12-hour shifts.
Day announced a state of emergency Saturday that he said will prohibit other municipalities from bringing people to Rockland County and prohibit hotels and motels from housing immigrants without a license.
He said the state of emergency will remain in effect for at least 30 days and will be enforced through fines of $2,000 per migrant per day for the hotels and for any municipality that sends migrants to Rockland.
It was unclear what authority Rockland County would have to fine New York City for sending migrants there. A spokesperson for the city’s legal department declined to comment.
The top elected official in Orange County, the other county where Adams said migrants would be sent, was more muted in his criticism.
“We have questions about who these immigrants are and remain concerned if they were properly vetted,” Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus said in a statement Friday. “It is another example of the Federal government’s failed immigration policy and inability to control the border.”
Adams has complained for months that the volume of migrants arriving in New York was beyond the city’s capacity to house and has criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican elected officials for busing migrants to New York.
Adams’ administration has been using hotels within the city to house some migrants, mainly families with children. Plans to house others at sites including a cruise ship terminal and a beach parking lot in the Bronx have been scrapped.
Adams’ press secretary, Fabien Levy, said Monday that the city has cared for more than 61,000 migrants “and we have done so largely without incident.”
Levy said in a statement that the federal government should do more to help the city house migrants, “but until they do, we need other elected officials around the state and country to do their part and emulate the humane and compassionate approach New York City has taken over the past year.