June 7, 2023
New York City Seeks to Invalidate Unlawful Executive Orders Seeking to Prohibit City from Providing Temporary Housing to Small Number of Asylum Seekers During Statewide Emergency
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix today announced that the City of New York is filing suit against more than 30 New York localities that issued unlawful emergency executive orders (EO) intended to prohibit New York City from arranging for even a small number of asylum seekers to stay in private hotels within their jurisdictions — at the City of New York’s expense — amidst a major humanitarian crisis and statewide emergency. New York City has had more than 74,000 asylum seekers ask for shelter since last spring and has opened up more than 160 sites to handle the influx of migrants. While many elected officials, community groups, and faith institutions have worked to welcome the small number of arrivals in each locality — in most cases less than ¼ of one percent — at least 30 local jurisdictions across the state have filed EOs to wall out asylum seekers. In today’s suit, New York City is asking the court to declare each of these EOs null and void and to stop the counties from taking any steps to enforce them any longer.
“Since this crisis began, New York City has — virtually on its own — stepped up to provide shelter, food, clothing, and other services to asylum seekers arriving in our city. We are doing our part and will continue to do our part, but we need every locality across the state to do their part as well,” said Mayor Adams. “We have repeatedly sounded the alarm that our shelter system is at capacity and that we are out of space. While many communities have been overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic about welcoming these new arrivals to their cities and towns, some elected officials have attempted to build metaphorical walls around their localities with unlawful executive orders. 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.”
“The relatively low number of individuals lawfully placed in these upstate jurisdictions reflect a small but significant step that will assist the City of New York in handling this growing humanitarian crisis,” said Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix. “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.”
Since April 2022, large numbers of individuals and families seeking asylum in the United States have arrived and then were sent to New York City as they seek temporary housing assistance. Many entered the United States at the southern border and were bused, flown, or transported by other means to the five boroughs, even though they have no friends or family in the area and no resources of their own. The large number of arrivals has strained the City of New York’s capacity to provide a temporary place to stay for those who need it.
In response to this emergency, New York City has embarked on a herculean effort to provide temporary shelter to those in need who are found in its jurisdiction. As of June 4, 2023, more than 74,000 asylum seekers had arrived within the five boroughs seeking shelter, and currently, more than 47,200 asylum seekers remained in shelter provided by the City of New York, with hundreds more arriving every day. Over the last year, New York City has opened up more than 160 emergency sites to provide temporary shelter or respite to asylum seekers. The number of intakes per day across the City of New York’s different intake systems has surged from 200-300 to as many as 600-900 individuals in some weeks in May. The City of New York is constantly searching for additional locations for temporary shelter and has reviewed more than 3,000 locations for possible shelter.
The crisis has already moved beyond the bounds of New York City: On May 9, 2023, New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a statewide emergency, recognizing the burden imposed on the entire state as it handles an unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers. The executive order acknowledged that there is “already a large-scale humanitarian crisis and emergency,” which the governor expected to worsen in the coming days.
As a part of its massive response, the City of New York has sought to utilize hotel rooms outside of the five boroughs to provide temporary housing assistance for a small number of asylum seekers, with New York City covering the cost of those hotels and of providing services to the individuals, as authorized by state law and regulation.
According to today’s suit, the more than 30 localities listed as defendants implemented executive orders prohibiting hotels, all private businesses, in their jurisdictions from providing temporary housing assistance to asylum seekers and/or working voluntarily with “foreign” municipalities — including New York City — to do so. Rockland and Orange counties were the first to issue EOs to keep asylum seekers out, and the two counties followed their orders by suing to prevent New York City from using available hotel rooms to temporarily shelter asylum seekers. The City of New York’s lawsuit alleges that all of these EOs are premised on baseless claims of a “public safety” emergency arising from the prospect of a small number of asylum seekers temporarily being provided with available hotel rooms in these jurisdictions at New York City’s expense. The lawsuit also alleges that the executive orders are an unlawful attempt to prevent New York City from responding to a statewide emergency and humanitarian crisis, as recognized by Governor Hochul in her executive order.
The City of New York is asking the court to declare all the executive orders null and void and to enjoin the counties from taking any steps to enforce them.