Pictured Above: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at a 2022 press conference.

As New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams called on the federal government this week for expedited work authorization for migrants seeking asylum here, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone issued an emergency order Friday evening that his office says is designed “to ensure a coordinated response to the ongoing crisis.”

The order “formalizes the creation of a county intergovernmental team, made up of leadership from the County Executive’s Office, the Department of Social Services, and the Police Department, that will continue to coordinate directly with New York State regarding this ongoing crisis,” said Mr. Bellone in a statement Friday evening, May 26. “The team will communicate and coordinate with local not-for-profits regarding resources that are available to assist in meeting the challenges faced by those impacted by this ongoing situation.”

Title 42, a policy to expel asylum seekers enacted during the Trump administration, expired on May 11, and New York City, already a major destination for asylum seekers, is bracing for a further influx of migrants due to its “right to shelter” mandate.

New York City government estimates more than 60,000 migrants and asylum seekers have come to New York City in the past year, and more than 42,000 of them are currently living in the city’s emergency shelters. Mayor Adams said May 21 that the city is now receiving as many as 900 asylum seekers each day.

“New York City continues to grapple with a shortage of available housing options for families and individuals fleeing desperate circumstances and legally seeking asylum,” said Mr. Bellone. “We remain supportive of Governor Hochul’s coordinated and humane approach to addressing this crisis and this Emergency Order serves to protect the local communities from bearing any costs associated with the potential arrival of asylum seekers.”

Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams held a joint press conference at Union Square Events in Brooklyn Monday, May 22, calling on President Joe Biden to shorten the 180-day waiting period before asylum seekers can apply for a work visa, and to reinstate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for asylum seekers from several countries that have in the past been eligible for TPS, including citizens of Venezuela, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

“Get them shelter. Get them food. Get them legal services. And then help them get to work,” said Governor Hochul at the event. “The mayor and his team have been asked to do the impossible. But he rose up. He put so much muscle behind the effort to find homes for these individuals any way he could, leaving no stone unturned. And he recognized, now that we have over 70,000 people fleeing difficult, terrifying circumstances. Whether it’s an oppressive regime in Venezuela, economic circumstances, great poverty, oppression, gang violence, decades of this have forced people who otherwise would be just as comfortable living at home in their own communities to have to flee those circumstances.”

Mr. Adams’ search for housing for migrants arriving in New York City has already put him at loggerheads with counties neighboring the city, and with facilities within the city. Two buses of migrants from the city arrived at a hotel in Newburgh, in Orange County, in mid-May, just after Mr. Adams announced a pause on transporting migrants out of the city. Both Orange and Rockland counties have since issued emergency declarations banning the housing of migrants, and Orange County has sued city government.

The city also removed migrants from a shelter in a public school gymnasium in Sunset Park, Brooklyn last week after protests from parents in the predominantly immigrant neighborhood.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar drew sharp criticism earlier this month for issuing an executive order banning hotels and other transient housing facilities from accepting migrants, in response to “information and belief” that “the Mayor of New York City or designees acting on his behalf have contacted hotels and motels located within the town of Riverhead to assess availability of such facilities for delivery of migrants from New York City.”

Ms. Aguiar would not elaborate further on which hotels had been contacted by the city, and the majority of representatives of hotels in the town later told the website riverheadlocal.com that they had not been contacted by the city.

Community members and Latino advocates later said Ms. Aguiar’s methods set a dangerous precedent.

“Actions like that of the supervisor serve to fan the flames of hate, anger, discrimination and misinformation,” according to OLA of Eastern Long Island. “OLA urges East End political leaders to adopt a humane, non-discriminatory approach toward asylum seekers and migrants in our communities.”

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey announced in a press briefing May 21 that the legislature has hired an attorney looking to bar hotels from putting up asylum seekers here, regardless of any action taken by the County Executive’s office

“New York City made a conscious decision to call itself a sanctuary city. Suffolk County did not,” said Mr. McCaffrey. “This is not an anti-immigration stance.”

“New York City officials have bragged for years that they were a sanctuary city, that rules and laws did not apply to people who were in this country illegally if you were in the five boroughs. That is a policy choice that New York City officials made and bragged about for years,” said Congressman Nick LaLota, who represents the East End, at Mr. McCaffrey’s press conference. “The Biden administration has allowed more than a million illegal immigrants to cross our southern border between ports of entry to get to our county. We here in Suffolk County are 2,000 miles away from the southern border, but we are to become a border county because of the Biden administration’s failed border policies and the sanctuary city policies of New York City.”

Mr. Bellone’s executive order formalizes the county’s objection to New York City’s current approach of busing asylum seekers to “random hotels across the state,” which it says “is a disservice to both county residents and the individuals seeking asylum. The Emergency Order instead reiterates the county’s calls for a coordinated approach in which New York State will serve as the lead agency, working to identify potential federal and state sites to temporarily house asylum seekers.”

Mr. Bellone’s executive order states that “hotels, motels, or shelters would need the permission of the county to engage in a contract with any other municipality to house asylum seekers, and the outside municipality would be responsible for assuming any and all cost expended by any municipality within Suffolk.”

“Suffolk County continues to face a shortage of temporary and permanent housing options, specifically county maintained and contracted shelters have reached capacity as the Department of Social Services works to support individuals facing homelessness,” according to the Suffolk County Executive’s office.

The Governor’s Office’s issued a State of Emergency May 9 in anticipation of the expiration of Title 42, mobilizing 500 members of the National Guard to assist 1,000 Guard members already assisting New York City with the providing food and supplies for the influx of migrants. The state has also announced it is considering housing migrants in dormitories at SUNY colleges in Stony Brook, Buffalo and Albany.

“I took note of the Statue of Liberty in Ellis Island as I came here this morning, a reminder of my teenage grandparents who fled great poverty in Ireland over a century ago,” said Governor Hochul at the May 22 event in Brooklyn. “Their children, eight children packed into a tiny house, became business leaders, school superintendents, educators, and a granddaughter even became a governor. That’s what happens in one generation, one generation. People’s lives are transformed, they are changed. That is the story of New York. And let us have the power to give that same right, that same opportunity to people.”

Ms. Hochul said there are 5,000 farm jobs that need to be filled in upstate New York alone, along with 5,000 food service jobs and 4,000 job openings for janitors, housekeepers and cleaners statewide.

“The cows don’t wait to be milked, the plants need to be maintained and harvested in a few months, the crops,” she added. “I’m a former waitress. I made pizzas, chicken wings, waited tables, cleaned floors, did pots and pans… Those jobs are available.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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