Allegany County escapes for now New York City lawsuit against states of emergency regarding migrants

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BREAKING: Allegany and Cattaraugus counties weren’t immediately included, but were mentioned today, in a New York City lawsuit against 33 of the other 57 counties in the state which have issued executive orders seeking to block entry of asylum seekers into their geographic areas.

The action, in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, came the same day as Allegany County Board of Legislators Chairman W. Brooke Harris of Alfred asked the board Human Resources Committee this afternoon its thoughts on whether to work with the state to take in “one, two, three families or whatever.”

Harris had issued a State of Emergency on May 19 “due to New York City’s actions to rapidly divert the number of migrants to other Counties in New York State to unsustainable levels,” at the same time admitting there was no emergency.

He declared at that time that Allegany County “does not have the capacity to receive or sustain any number of migrants and/or asylum seekers.”

Lawsuit components
New York City, in its lawsuit, alleges that most counties mimicked a State of Emergency and executive order out of Rockland County which would thwart the city from paying for hotels and motels in other counties to house and support some of the thousands of migrants and asylum seekers which are overflowing New York City facilities.

Yesterday, a federal judge, in a case brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), issued a preliminary injunction against both Rockland and Orange counties, saying the organization, after a full hearing, likely will win its petition to throw out the emergency orders.

New York City, in today’s lawsuit, claims that actions by 33 counties outside New York City conflict with the state Social Services Law during a statewide disaster emergency, both the state Human Rights Law and the federal Civil Rights Act, state law in regard to the ability to declare a state of emergency, are preempted by federal law in attempting to regulate residences of noncitizens, and are constitutionally prohibited.

Allegany Hope Community News, at the time of Allegany County’s action, had queried Harris in regard to the legality of the state of emergency declaration, but received no response.

Allegany County mentioned
In New York City’s lawsuit, it notes that “the Counties of Allegany, Cattaratgus, Columbia, St. Lawrence and Yates have issued emergency declarations based on the possibility that the City may seek to utilize commercial hotels in their communities to provide temporary housing assistance to asylum seekers. To date, these jurisdictions have not issued executive orders implementing their declarations.”

This partial county action, which expires in 30 days unless rescinded or extended, apparently saved Allegany and Cattaraugus counties from being included in today’s litigation.

Wyoming County is one of the defendants in the lawsuit, based on components of its declaration, while Steuben County issued a statement some two weeks ago saying it was monitoring the situation but questioned the legality of such an action without there being an immediate cause.

County committee member reactions
At today’s county committee meeting, Chairman Harris said that on a recent call among county leaders and Gov. Kathy Hochul, one of her staff members said a question had been raised by a small rural county as to whether the state would work with similar entities to facilitate the arrival of a small number of migrants “to show they’re being a team player, so to speak.”

Saying he “believes there are some members of this board that may consider that to be reasonable and appropriate,” Harris asked the opinion of Human Services Committee members since it would be likely that any related action involving county departments would come through that group.

“Allegany County always has been welcoming of migrants from all nations and for a myriad of reasons,” he said.

Spoken responses from committee members appeared to be reserved, with Chairperson Janice Burdick of Alfred Station saying she feels there should be consultation with department heads before any action is taken, Legislator Debra Root of Scio expressing need for a “full discussion” by the board, possibly in a special Committee of the Whole meeting, and Dwight (Mike) Healy of Belmont asking “we already receive, have some (migrants) don’t we …. in the county?”

The group then adjourned.

A livestream of the discussion is available at https://bit.ly/45SY16F, starting at approximately 23:55 minutes, with a copy of New York City’s court petition at https://bit.ly/43MhdkL.