Suffolk Politicians Push Back against Migrant Influx
On May 11, the Biden administration ended Title 42, a Trump-era policy in which illegal immigrants were sent back to Mexico. Since then, thousands of migrants have made their way into the U.S., some of them heading to New York.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who has initially welcomed the undocumented immigrants into the city, now claims the city cannot handle the influx of immigrants and is looking to push them into the suburbs. New York State Governor Kathy Hochul recently stated she wants to have the overflow of immigrants being housed on SUNY campuses, including the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Ironically, Hochul praised Adams during a May 22 press conference, saying he “rose up,” “didn’t run away, didn’t shirk” from his duties and provided “the kind of leadership that is so critically important” at this time.
Now, some elected officials are taking matters into their own hands in order to prevent migrants from coming into Suffolk County. Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) has announced that the county Legislature has retained legal counsel to ensure that any elected officials can force Suffolk to take in these migrants.
“We cannot allow the federal and state [governments] to pass on these costs to the residents of Suffolk County,” he was quoted as saying in The New York Post.
In Riverhead, Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar — the first Latina elected to town supervisor in Riverhead and the first Latina to be elected supervisor in a Suffolk County town — issued a state of emergency on May 16. Aguiar declared a state of emergency based on information received and in response to reports that the New York City Department of Homeless Services has, or will be arranging for the transportation and relocation of undocumented migrants and/or asylum seekers to hotels or motels within the Town of Riverhead.
“Relative to the surrounding townships on the East End and throughout Suffolk County, Riverhead has done more than its share when it comes to housing the homeless, providing services and offering affordable housing and our resources and taxpayers simply cannot withstand further demand on our public services,” she said in a statement.
But some argue against this maneuver by the town. “This is dangerous when you’re taking away the right for private businesses to do their business,” Minerva Perez, OLA’s executive director, told WSHU Radio.
The organization put out a legal memo, which calls the executive order “the unlawful use of power” and claims it “will cause an increase in hate crimes and violence against the Latino community and communities of color in Riverhead and even throughout the East End.”
The OLA memo further stated that the declaration “misuses the law and discriminates against people, many lawfully in the country, on the basis of national origin and or race.”
However, on May 17, the Suffolk County Supervisors Association (SCSA) — a coalition of all ten Suffolk County town supervisors chaired by Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer (a Democrat) and with Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter (a Republican) as vice chair — issued a statement of support for Aguiar’s plan and called for the federal government to fix the problem they said let happen for years.
“They all need to step up, stop finger-pointing and finally figure out how to handle this issue,” the SCSA stated. “Fix the system like we have been asking them to do for years. It should not, and cannot be left to local governments to shoulder this burden, or take on the responsibility for this issue.”
Aguiar said she appreciates the support from the SCSA. “I … will continue to preserve the health, welfare and safety of all Riverhead residents. This catastrophe is not of our own doing and I will not stand by and let the federal government’s mismanagement of this issue fall on the shoulders of the Riverhead taxpayers. No way, not on my watch!”