NEW YORK CITY – The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal lawsuit against Rockland and Orange Counties for barring the arrival of migrants who chose to relocate from New York City.
The two counties had issued executive orders barring hotels from making rooms available to migrants, in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution. The four plaintiffs are migrants who sheltered in New York City and opted into a city-run program to relocate.
“Orange and Rockland County’s Emergency Orders egregiously violate migrants’ rights,” said Amy Belsher, Director of Immigrants’ Rights Litigation at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Migrants have every right to travel and reside anywhere in New York, free of xenophobic harassment and discrimination. People are not political pawns – both counties should welcome migrants into their communities, not unlawfully bar them from seeking refuge.”
In issuing its executive orders, both Rockland and Orange counties invoked a non-existent emergency, raising the specter of “thousands” of immigrants entering the counties and burdening social services. However, there are no large-scale plans for migrants to move to these counties nor any immediate need for the counties to absorb the costs of caring for those who choose to do so.
Defending these orders, Rockland County Executive Edwin Day and Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus have made racist and incendiary accusations about immigrants and threatened to deploy law enforcement to block buses transporting migrants. Executive Day speculated that migrants intending to relocate to the county may be “child rapists,” “criminals,” or gang members. Executive Neuhaus has threatened to intercept those attempting to relocate, warning “I think we’re going to have a standoff in the next 24 to 48 hours.”
“Immigrants are welcome here and everywhere in the Hudson Valley – county officials must embrace their responsibility to welcome immigrants seeking refuge,” said Ignacio Acevedo, Hudson Valley Organizer at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “As migrants resettle into our neighborhoods, we must greet them with compassion, inclusion, and solidarity. Anything else is cruel, and doesn’t align with our community’s values of compassion and care.”
Today’s lawsuit asks the court to stop the two counties from interfering with migrants’ travel and lodging. NYCLU attorneys bringing the challenge include Amy Belsher, Antony Gemmell, Lupe Aguirre, Ify Chikezie.