Suffolk County town supervisors and legislators have made their opinion, cautioning against retention of migrants to be placed in Suffolk County, known.
In a joint-statement by the Suffolk County Supervisors Association, which comprises the towns of Islip, Brookhaven, Babylon, Huntington, Smithtown, Shelter Island, Riverhead, East Hampton, Southampton and Southold, with chairman Rich Schaffer (Babylon) and vice chair Angie Carpenter (Islip), the supervisors stated that the issue of migrants and their subsequent placement in New York State is “the sole responsibility of our federal government officials.”
The statement went on to specify that this means the responsibility of the President and both Houses of Congress. “They need to step up, stop finger-pointing, and finally figure out how to handle this issue.”
The supervisors said that they and other elected officials have been clamoring for years to “fix the system.”
“It should not, and cannot, be left to local governments to shoulder this burden, or take on the responsibility for this issue,” said the supervisors’ statement in conclusion.
On Sunday, May 21, members of the Suffolk County Legislature gave a public announcement, where legislator and presiding officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-14th District) said that Suffolk County, like other surrounding areas of New York City, would be retaining an attorney to stop the placement of migrants in the county.
McCaffrey was critical of Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone and said he did not believe that Bellone would take action against the placement of migrants, as he had “not signaled” to do so.
New York City mayor Eric Adams has stated publicly that with 42,000 migrants still in need of housing in the five boroughs (with a total over 60,000), that the city is in desperate need for additional funding.
In a statement, the Adams said, “We need counties, cities, and towns across the state to do their part as well” and that New York City was “willing to pay” for shelter and food.
Adams said his administration was placing less than “one quarter of one percent” of the asylum seekers outside of New York City.”
McCaffrey countered that “New York City made a conscious decision to call itself a sanctuary city. Suffolk County did not.”
There are currently 11 sanctuary states (as well as the District of Columbia) and as of 2018, an estimated 564 jurisdictions in the United States were deemed “sanctuary cities.”
A sanctuary jurisdiction typically refuses requests from federal immigration authorities to detain undocumented immigrants apprehended for low-level offenses. A sanctuary city would typically also refuse to have its local law enforcement “deputized” as federal immigration agents.
According to the State Department, the number of unauthorized entries along the southern border has dropped to an average of 4,400 per day after soaring to 10,000 in early May with the of the expiration of Title 42 border restrictions.
Title 42 is part of the Public Health Service Act of 1944. Its purpose was to help prevent the spread of communicable diseases in the U.S. Responding to a cholera epidemic, Congress passed a law in 1893 that later became Title 42. That law gave the President authority to exclude people from certain countries during public health emergencies. According to Title 42, whenever the U.S. Director of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) determines there is a communicable disease in another country, health officials have the authority, with the approval of the President, to prohibit “the introduction of persons and property from such countries or places” for as long as health officials determine is necessary.
That authority was held by the U.S. Surgeon General until it was transferred to the CDC director in 1966.
Prior to 2020, Title 42 had only been used once in 1929 to keep ships from China and the Philippines from entering U.S. ports during a meningitis outbreak.
In March 2020, the former Trump administration activated Title 42 to “help stop the spread of COVID-19 in immigrant detention centers,” where the majority of migrant and asylum seekers are placed after they arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border.
When current President Joseph Biden took office in January 2021, Title 42 was left in place.
In April 2022, the Biden administration announced that it would suspend the order, but a federal judge in Louisiana prevented the rescindment.
On Thursday, May 11, the U.S. officially lifted COVID-19 Title 42 restrictions and the border was subject to Title 8 regulations, with more stringent rules for asylum seekers.
Under Title 8, migrants who “express fear of returning to their home countries can request asylum,” but new asylum regulation bars anyone who has “passed through another country without seeking refuge there first or who has failed to access legal pathways to enter the United States.”
Assemblyman Jarett Gandolfo (R-7th District) said he agreed with the supervisors’ statement and that New York City had been “proudly declaring itself a sanctuary city” while local municipalities did not.
Gandolfo expressed his doubt of the sentiment and said, “While it makes for a nice bumper-sticker slogan, the city has finally realized there are real-world implications to that policy decision.”
In response to a statement by fellow assemblyman and deputy speaker of the New York State Assembly Phil Ramos (D-6th District), who characterized phrases in the legislators’ joint statement as “race-baiting” and “anti-immigrant” and said there was no outrage at Ukrainian and Polish asylum seekers, Gandolfo countered that equating the “current migrant crisis” with “the refugees who fled from the war in Ukraine” was a “shameful attempt to distort the facts and mislead the public.”
With just over 100 Ukrainian refugees settled on Long Island, Gandolfo said those individuals had been “vetted and [gone] through proper legal channels to enter our country.”
In addition, Gandolfo said, “This current crisis dwarfs those numbers and shows no signs of slowing down. The vast majority of migrants being bussed to New York have not been vetted and most likely will not fit the criteria for legal asylum status.”
Legis. Anthony Piccirillo (R-8th District), who stood alongside McCaffrey during the press conference, said that he supported “bringing in outside counsel to know what our legal options are regarding the possibility of undocumented people and asylum seekers coming to our county.”
Piccirillo said that as Suffolk County is a not a state that “[we] do not have the resources to accommodate the number of people we are hearing could possible come here.”
“The city has spent nearly $4 billion. That’s the whole budget of Suffolk County. We have a constitutional responsibility to make sure public safety and public finances would be severely impacted,” said Piccirillo.
Legis. Dominick Thorne (R-7th District), who also attended the news conference this past Sunday, declined to comment and said he was “listening to all public comments.”
State Sen. Alexis Weik (R-3rd District) said, “The migrant crisis is wholly the fault of Democrats who refuse to address reasonable concerns of their constituents.”
She went on with her strong criticism of New York State Democrats and said, “[they] have let the crisis flood into our communities by refusing to cooperate with state Republicans who have brought sensible solutions to deal with this unprecedented disaster.”