U.S. Representative Nick LaLota and State Sen. Anthony Palumbo, Republicans who represent Shelter Island, were among a half-dozen Nassau and Suffolk County Republicans who called on Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) last Thursday to rescind New York’s “sanctuary state” designation and prevent New York City’s migrant crisis from spilling into Long Island’s suburbs.
The officials used notably pointed language to argue that their districts didn’t vote for sanctuary status, that no one at any level of government has a plan for managing the crisis, and that area suburbs shouldn’t be made to shoulder the city’s burden.
“You break it, you bought it,” Mr. LaLota said of both the city and the state’s sanctuary status. “For years, the Republican elected officials behind me have campaigned and debated against the unfairness and dangerousness of sanctuary city policies,” he said. “They are unfair to those who are trying to get to this country legally and dangerous to New Yorkers who are forced to live among unvetted adults.”
Mr. LaLota said that New York City Mayor Eric Adams “wants to treat Nassau like the sixth borough, and Suffolk like the seventh borough to mop up his mess, causing us to incur financial, educational and public safety costs associated with the crisis he caused.”
Mr. LaLota called the migrant crisis a “slap in the face to public safety.”
“We Long Islanders did not vote for sanctuary cities. We Long Islanders support the police … support law and order … support legal immigration. We are also a nation of immigrants. And we are a nation of laws as well,” he said. “The city and state need to grow a backbone now and repeal their sanctuary policy.”
The city’s sanctuary status is related to a 1979 court mandate that found that the right to shelter for homeless men is included in the state constitution, citing the Article XVII phrase “the aid, care and support of the needy are public concerns and shall be provided by the state and by such of its subdivisions.” By 1981, the mandate was extended to women and families with children. The decision was a result of a lawsuit against the city by the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless.
New York state’s current sanctuary designation is the result of a 2017 executive order signed by former governor Andrew Cuomo. New York is one of 11 states that have self-designated as sanctuary states.
The debate over the fate of the asylum-seeking migrants has split largely along party lines. However, Mr. Adams, a Democrat, has for months been demanding — with little success — that President Joe Biden and the federal government assist New York City through the crisis and help foot the bill. Mr. Adams has said the city has so far spent roughly $1.7 billion since busloads of asylum seekers began arriving daily last spring from southern border states. The number of migrants who have arrived currently totals about 100,000, according to city officials.
In May, Riverhead became the first municipality on Long Island to issue an executive order declaring a “state of emergency” prohibiting local hotel and motel owners from signing deals with the city to temporarily or permanently house asylum-seekers. The move was met with considerable opposition from critics, who wanted to know why town officials who have been so welcoming to Ukrainian refugees fleeing their war-torn homeland are now turning their backs on the mostly Hispanic refugees crossing the southern border.
Less than two weeks after Riverhead’s executive order, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone followed suit and issued a countywide state of emergency. Gov. Hochul declared a statewide emergency in May.
In June, New York City filed a lawsuit against Suffolk County, Riverhead and 29 other municipalities around the state for issuing “unlawful emergency executive orders” to prohibit the city “from arranging for even a small number of asylum-seekers to stay … within their jurisdiction.” The case is ongoing.
Earlier this month, Mr. Adams petitioned the state to use Air National Guard bases to house the migrants, including Westhampton’s Gabreski Air National Guard base, but the governor declined that request, according to Newsday.
Like many other Republicans, Mr. Palumbo said President Biden’s border enforcement policies are ultimately to blame for the existing crisis. “What is compassion?” he said. “Having these individuals go through abhorrent conditions, get in deep with the Mexican cartels, hoping, praying, giving probably their life savings to get through a hole in a fence at two in the morning?”
Mr. Palumbo said the state government couldn’t even fully fund its free school lunch program this year. “We needed $100 million in order to ensure that every school kid gets a free lunch,” he said. “That those students that are food insecure, or too embarrassed to say that they don’t have the money. We need $100 million in New York state to feed every kid. We didn’t get to it.”
State Sen. Jack Martins, a North Shore Nassau County representative, said that with “no end in sight” to the crisis, local schools and local governments are eventually going to bear the costs of assimilating an unknown number of migrant families into their communities unless the state and federal governments take decisive action.