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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Migrant Crisis: Suffolk Declares Action Against New York City

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On Sunday, May 21, prominent elected officials from the county, state and township levels gathered to officially declare action against New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ (D) apparent plans to send migrants to Suffolk County. 

The county asserts that there are not enough resources and services to house the projected numbers of migrants to be sent from New York City and that the residents of Suffolk County should not be forced to “shoulder the burden” imposed by what they deem as “failed immigration policy.”

The response is just part of a much larger crisis currently affecting the nation at large. Since the expiration of Title 42, a provision of the United States Code that allows the federal government to suspend virtually all forms of immigration, even asylum claims, in the face of a public health emergency, a tidal wave of migrants has strained systems across the country. From the border, many are bussed across the country, including to New York City, where officials are struggling to find room, housing and resources to meet demands.

New York City came under fire last week for sending buses of migrants to Orange and Rockland counties, which resulted in the usurpation of hotel rooms initially blocked out for Veterans and even wedding parties. The counties have responded by sending migrants back, but the city – and even Albany – are exploring alternatives, including Suffolk County.

County Will Seek Special Counsel to Prevent City from Sending Migrants

An impromptu press conference was held at the County Legislature building in Hauppauge on Sunday afternoon and featured a large cast of prominent Suffolk politicians. Headlining the event was Suffolk County Legislator and Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst)

of the Fourteenth District. Co-headlining with Legislator McCaffrey was Congressman Nick LaLota (R) of the First District, the sole member in attendance from the federal government.

Present from the County Legislature were Dominick Thorne (R-Patchogue), District 7; Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holtsville), District 8; Trish Bergin (R-East Islip), District 10; Deputy Presiding Officer Steve Flotteron (R-Bay Shore), District 11; Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), District 12; Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), District 13; and Stephanie Bontempi (R-Huntington), District 18.

Present from the State Assembly were Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) of District 4, Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) of District 5, Jarett Gandolfo (R-Bayport) of District 7, and Keith Brown (R-Northport) of District 12.

In attendance from the State Senate were Mario Mattera (R-St. James) of District 2 and Alexis Weik (R-Sayville) of District 8.

In attendance from the Town of Brookhaven was Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden) of the Third District. Present from the Town of Riverhead was Councilman Tim Hubbard (R-Riverhead).

Candidate for Smithtown Town Clerk Tom McCarthy (R) was also in attendance.

The event was open to the public, with pro-migrant and anti-migrant demonstrators making their presence known.

McCaffrey began the brisk conference by stating the problem and the intention of the County: “We’re watching a humanitarian crisis spin out of control through the complete incompetence by the Biden Administration and the Hochul Administration. Thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers are being sent to municipalities each and every day. The residents of Suffolk County should not have to shoulder the burden of the failed policies of the Biden and Hochul Administrations.” The opening remarks were met with applause from most of the room.

McCaffrey continued: “Several counties throughout the state have commenced litigation and successfully obtained restraining orders. Our county executive [Steven Bellone] has not signaled that he is prepared to take those actions. We, as the Suffolk County Legislature, therefore, have been prepared to act on behalf of Suffolk County residents if the county executive will not. This week will be introducing a procedural motion to authorize the hiring of a special counsel to pursue any and all legal options available to prevent the unfunded location of asylum seekers in Suffolk County.”

Many in the room applauded the plan, with some shouting, “Thank you!” At the same time, pro-migrant demonstrators held up homemade signs and began chants of “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!”

The contrasting responses resulted in one of several instances of verbal barbs as members of both groups traded insults.

McCaffrey then invited Congressman LaLota to take the stand. As LaLota introduced himself and gave opening remarks, pro-migrant attendees shouted over him, demanding he “hold a town hall.” Anti-migrant attendees told the protesters to “shut up,” with another saying, “You need to take an immigrant home.”

Congressman LaLota said: “Indeed, we are a nation of immigrants…” but his statement was drowned out by the protestors, as one shouted that “asylum is legal” and told the congressman that he needs to “learn your immigration laws.”

LaLota continued: “We honor immigration, we honor legal immigration,” but again, the congressman’s voice was overpowered by shouts of “asylum is legal” and more protest chants. Insults between both sides of the public began to balloon as the nonpartisan directors of the event attempted to regain control, telling interrupters of both sides not to engage one another and that if composure could not be contained, that they would be asked to leave or escorted out.

LaLota continued: “If we are to maintain the greatness of being the greatest nation the world has ever known, we need to be a nation of rules and laws. Concurrent with the lack of rule of law, the Biden Administration has allowed more than a million illegal immigrants to cross our Southern border. 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.”

LaLota also said that the immigration overflow has prevented New York City from caring for the homeless, Veterans, those with substance abuse, and the mentally impaired now have “less or no resources” because of the crisis.

LaLota commanded New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) to “put your money where your mouth is” regarding his failed policies over which he and the City have not only presided but also “bragged,” as LaLota put it.

McCaffrey then retook the stand to take questions from the press. He said that while the agency to provide outside counsel has not yet been selected, he believes there is money in the budget to afford such services.

McCaffrey also said there has been no contact between Suffolk County and New York City. He did say that “they [the city] are contacting hotels, motels, or any place [in Suffolk County] that migrants or asylum-seekers could be housed.” He also said that the city has contacted establishments in every town in Suffolk County. McCaffrey also said that the Legislature has received contact from hotel owners who were contacted by the city to house migrants.

McCaffrey also presented staggering statistics: “It is estimated that steady influx of immigrants sent to New York City is soon to be expected to increase by 5,000 a week…It is going to take two years, as we understand – the shortest period of time – before someone can get their day in court…I am being told that 90 % of asylum-seekers have their claims denied, that they do not fall under the legal protection of asylum.”

McCaffrey also said that while the county is not looking to open County buildings to house migrants, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) is open to the possibility of opening SUNY schools to house migrants until August. “This is not a short-term problem, this is a long-term problem,” he said.

McCaffrey did give a message to migrants, saying that if they come through the system legally, they will be welcomed.

Shoshana Hershkowitz, a music ensemble director at Stony Brook University and founder of the advocacy group Suffolk County Progressives was one of the pro-migrant demonstrators at the event. Huntington pediatrician and Harborfields school board member Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief (D), candidate against Stephanie Bontempi for Suffolk County Legislature District 18, was also in attendance.

Tuesday, May 23, saw a general meeting of the Legislature which was open to the public at the Hauppauge building. McCaffrey said preceding the event: “There is nothing happening right now that leads us to believe we have to take immediate action.”

The Legislature did not vote on the issue on Tuesday, although it was a constant topic of discussion during public hearings. The next general meeting of the Legislature is June 6.

The county asserts that there are not enough resources and services to house the projected numbers of migrants to be sent from New York City and that the residents of Suffolk County should not be forced to “shoulder the burden” imposed by what they deem as “failed immigration policy.”

The response is just part of a much larger crisis currently affecting the nation at large. Since the expiration of Title 42, a provision of the United States Code that allows the federal government to suspend virtually all forms of immigration, even asylum claims, in the face of a public health emergency, a tidal wave of migrants has strained systems across the country. From the border, many are bussed across the country, including to New York City, where officials are struggling to find room, housing and resources to meet demands.

New York City came under fire last week for sending buses of migrants to Orange and Rockland counties, which resulted in the usurpation of hotel rooms initially blocked out for Veterans and even wedding parties. The counties have responded by sending migrants back, but the city – and even Albany – are exploring alternatives, including Suffolk County.

County Will Seek Special Counsel to Prevent City from Sending Migrants

An impromptu press conference was held at the County Legislature building in Hauppauge on Sunday afternoon and featured a large cast of prominent Suffolk politicians. Headlining the event was Suffolk County Legislator and Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst)

of the Fourteenth District. Co-headlining with Legislator McCaffrey was Congressman Nick LaLota (R) of the First District, the sole member in attendance from the federal government.

Present from the County Legislature were Dominick Thorne (R-Patchogue), District 7; Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holtsville), District 8; Trish Bergin (R-East Islip), District 10; Deputy Presiding Officer Steve Flotteron (R-Bay Shore), District 11; Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), District 12; Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), District 13; and Stephanie Bontempi (R-Huntington), District 18.

Present from the State Assembly were Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) of District 4, Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) of District 5, Jarett Gandolfo (R-Bayport) of District 7, and Keith Brown (R-Northport) of District 12.

In attendance from the State Senate were Mario Mattera (R-St. James) of District 2 and Alexis Weik (R-Sayville) of District 8.

In attendance from the Town of Brookhaven was Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden) of the Third District. Present from the Town of Riverhead was Councilman Tim Hubbard (R-Riverhead).

Candidate for Smithtown Town Clerk Tom McCarthy (R) was also in attendance.

The event was open to the public, with pro-migrant and anti-migrant demonstrators making their presence known.

McCaffrey began the brisk conference by stating the problem and the intention of the County: “We’re watching a humanitarian crisis spin out of control through the complete incompetence by the Biden Administration and the Hochul Administration. Thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers are being sent to municipalities each and every day. The residents of Suffolk County should not have to shoulder the burden of the failed policies of the Biden and Hochul Administrations.” The opening remarks were met with applause from most of the room.

McCaffrey continued: “Several counties throughout the state have commenced litigation and successfully obtained restraining orders. Our county executive [Steven Bellone] has not signaled that he is prepared to take those actions. We, as the Suffolk County Legislature, therefore, have been prepared to act on behalf of Suffolk County residents if the county executive will not. This week will be introducing a procedural motion to authorize the hiring of a special counsel to pursue any and all legal options available to prevent the unfunded location of asylum seekers in Suffolk County.”

Many in the room applauded the plan, with some shouting, “Thank you!” At the same time, pro-migrant demonstrators held up homemade signs and began chants of “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!”

The contrasting responses resulted in one of several instances of verbal barbs as members of both groups traded insults.

McCaffrey then invited Congressman LaLota to take the stand. As LaLota introduced himself and gave opening remarks, pro-migrant attendees shouted over him, demanding he “hold a town hall.” Anti-migrant attendees told the protesters to “shut up,” with another saying, “You need to take an immigrant home.”

Congressman LaLota said: “Indeed, we are a nation of immigrants…” but his statement was drowned out by the protestors, as one shouted that “asylum is legal” and told the congressman that he needs to “learn your immigration laws.”

LaLota continued: “We honor immigration, we honor legal immigration,” but again, the congressman’s voice was overpowered by shouts of “asylum is legal” and more protest chants. Insults between both sides of the public began to balloon as the nonpartisan directors of the event attempted to regain control, telling interrupters of both sides not to engage one another and that if composure could not be contained, that they would be asked to leave or escorted out.

LaLota continued: “If we are to maintain the greatness of being the greatest nation the world has ever known, we need to be a nation of rules and laws. Concurrent with the lack of rule of law, the Biden Administration has allowed more than a million illegal immigrants to cross our Southern border. 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.”

LaLota also said that the immigration overflow has prevented New York City from caring for the homeless, Veterans, those with substance abuse, and the mentally impaired now have “less or no resources” because of the crisis.

LaLota commanded New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) to “put your money where your mouth is” regarding his failed policies over which he and the City have not only presided but also “bragged,” as LaLota put it.

McCaffrey then retook the stand to take questions from the press. He said that while the agency to provide outside counsel has not yet been selected, he believes there is money in the budget to afford such services.

McCaffrey also said there has been no contact between Suffolk County and New York City. He did say that “they [the city] are contacting hotels, motels, or any place [in Suffolk County] that migrants or asylum-seekers could be housed.” He also said that the city has contacted establishments in every town in Suffolk County. McCaffrey also said that the Legislature has received contact from hotel owners who were contacted by the city to house migrants.

McCaffrey also presented staggering statistics: “It is estimated that steady influx of immigrants sent to New York City is soon to be expected to increase by 5,000 a week…It is going to take two years, as we understand – the shortest period of time – before someone can get their day in court…I am being told that 90 % of asylum-seekers have their claims denied, that they do not fall under the legal protection of asylum.”

McCaffrey also said that while the county is not looking to open County buildings to house migrants, Governor Kathy Hochul (D) is open to the possibility of opening SUNY schools to house migrants until August. “This is not a short-term problem, this is a long-term problem,” he said.

McCaffrey did give a message to migrants, saying that if they come through the system legally, they will be welcomed.

Shoshana Hershkowitz, a music ensemble director at Stony Brook University and founder of the advocacy group Suffolk County Progressives was one of the pro-migrant demonstrators at the event. Huntington pediatrician and Harborfields school board member Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief (D), candidate against Stephanie Bontempi for Suffolk County Legislature District 18, was also in attendance.

Tuesday, May 23, saw a general meeting of the Legislature which was open to the public at the Hauppauge building. McCaffrey said preceding the event: “There is nothing happening right now that leads us to believe we have to take immediate action.”

The Legislature did not vote on the issue on Tuesday, although it was a constant topic of discussion during public hearings. The next general meeting of the Legislature is June 6.

No concrete steps have been taken yet, and no specific strategies have been developed, as the county is waiting to obtain special counsel to further navigate the issue.

Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri
Matt Meduri has served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Messenger Papers since August 2023. He is the author of the America the Beautiful, Civics 101, and This Week Today columns. Matt graduated from St. Joseph's University, Patchogue, in 2022, with a degree in Human Resources and worked for his family's IT business for three years. He's also a musician and composer with his sights set on the film industry. Matt has traveled all around the U.S. and enjoys cooking, photography, and a good cup of coffee.