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Local officials pledge to stop plan by NYC mayor to send migrants to Rockland County

 Officials including Rockland County Executive Ed Day, center, speaking Monday during a livestreamed press conference.
WAMC screengrab/Rockland County
Officials including Rockland County Executive Ed Day, center, speaking Monday during a livestreamed press conference.

Area officials are crying foul over a plan by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to relocate refugees to Rockland County.

Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day declared a state of emergency Saturday, a day after the relocation of the migrants north was announced by Mayor Adams. The city is planning to house more than 300 asylum seekers in hotels in Rockland County and Orange County.

Adams, a Democrat, says the city is funding the four-month stay, and says only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived in New York City are heading to the northern suburbs.

Day says he will do whatever it takes to halt the plan, including threatening to fine hotels that house the migrants. He called a press conference to detail his objections and complaints over how Adams communicated about it.

“The city declared itself a sanctuary city in December 2016. Rockland County did not. It's as simple as that,” Day said.

The war of words between Day and Adams intensified during the press conference,with each accusing the other of racism.

“I think anybody who throws that card out there quickly has his own set of problems, including being a racist himself. I was a New York City police lieutenant, he was a New York City police captain. He above all people understands that that's color neutral. So this is the best he's got is to throw that out there? You know something, I'm a big boy, I can text him. Not a big deal,” Day said. “But the mayor should be answering the many situations and many challenges that have been brought up here today and over the last few days about just how bad this is. The mayor is engaged in human trafficking of the worst kind.”

Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of the 17th district says the standoff is proof that the Biden administration’s approach to immigration isn’t working.

“We are not prepared to handle this massive influx of migrants at this time,” he said. “As the county executive pointed out, we had a press conference two months ago, and we talked about the strain on our sole social services department, our food banks, our shelters, our nonprofits, adding additional hundreds. And this, let's be clear, I spoke to the mayor's office, I spoke to the mayor. This is the beginning of their plan. This is not the end of it. This is a ‘pilot program.’ It's a total joke.”

Lawler says when President Biden comes to the Hudson Valley to talk about the debt ceiling on Wednesday, he should focus on immigration instead.

Attorney Sarah Rogerson is Director of the Justice Center and Director of the Immigration Law Clinic. Speaking on WAMC’s Roundtable panel Monday, Rogerson took a different view of the influx of migrants.

“We’re not being invaded,” she said. “This is an opportunity for America, just like it’s an opportunity for every state in the country, especially states with a shortage of labor.”

But Orangetown Supervisor Teresa Kenny says it’s not a theoretical.

“We don't know despite asking if these people have been vetted,” she said. “Do they have criminal records? You are bringing upwards of 340 single men into the hamlet of Orangeburg. It's a little over three square miles with a population about 4,600 people. It's a residential suburban community. And you're going to bring in 340 single men that we don't know if they have criminal records.”

Day says county law enforcement will be ready to report the arrival of any buses carrying migrants and did not rule out a lawsuit to halt the plan.

In Orange County, Executive Steven Neuhaus says about 60 asylum seekers will be temporarily housed at a hotel in the town of Newburgh.

In a statement, the Republican said he has questions about who the immigrants are and is concerned about them being properly vetted. He added that it “is another example of the federal government’s failed immigration policy and inability to control the border.”

Copyright 2023 WAMC Northeast Public Radio. To see more, visit WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

Ian Pickus