Federal Judge Nelson Roman of the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction halting Rockland and Orange counties from implementing emergency orders to deter migrants from relocating from New York City. Roman sided with the four migrant plaintiffs, determining that the executive orders violated their rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Last month, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Rockland and Orange counties alleging they illegally obstructed migrants’ relocation from the city.
“Migrants have the freedom to move and settle anywhere within New York without facing xenophobic backlash or discrimination,” said Amy Belsher, director of Immigrants’ Rights Litigation at the Union. “These individuals should not be used as political chess pieces. Both counties should welcome migrants into their communities rather than unlawfully prohibiting them from seeking sanctuary.”
The move follows Rockland County Executive Ed Day, a Republican, declaring a state of emergency to stop the influx of asylum seeking migrants.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams criticized Day for forbidding asylum seekers from migrating to his “tight-knit community.” He accused Day of having a history of anti-Semitic sentiment and making racially charged comments.
The plaintiffs, Sidi Mouhamed Deide, Adama Sy, Abdallahi Salem, and Mouhamed Said Maloum Din, argued that the orders were openly discriminatory, alleging they violated their equal protection rights by distinguishing people on the grounds of national origin, alienage, and race. The injunction was issued amidst a debate over the new migrant bussing initiative, which sparked outrage in both Rockland and Orange counties, the intended destinations for the first wave of migrants.
Previously, Rockland and Orange managed to secure temporary restraining orders against the migrant transfer plan. They cited local zoning laws that prevent hotels from being used as shelters. However, Judge Roman’s ruling will not interfere with these restraining orders, which are set to be addressed in state court proceedings. The counties, despite their resistance to the decision, acknowledge that little will change immediately due to the federal court’s respect for the state-imposed temporary restraining orders.
Belsher applauded the ruling, saying it sends a powerful message against discriminatory practices. On the other hand, Ed Day expressed an intent to explore all legal options, including an appeal of the decision.