In early January, when New York City had already seen the arrival of more than 30,000 asylum-seekers, Mayor Eric Adams declared that there was “no more room at the inn.” Adams called on other cities, counties and towns in the state to help shelter new arrivals from the southern border.
Nine months later, more than 113,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in New York City since last spring, and the city has opened 208 emergency shelter sites to house them. As of Sept. 10, nearly 60,000 asylum-seekers were still in the city’s care.
The Adams administration has now spent months trying to get upstate and suburban counties to take in some of those asylum-seekers. In the spring, the city began sending a relatively small number of migrants to stay in hotels and motels in other counties on the city’s dime. (The contractor managing those sites has come under sharp scrutiny amid accusations that people working for the company have deceived and threatened migrants, and findings that the company hired unlicensed security guards to work at the sites. New York City Comptroller Brad Lander is auditing the city’s no-bid $432 million contract with DocGo.)
Dozens of counties responded to those relocation efforts by preemptively blocking the city from sending migrants to stay within their own borders. And while the city and some advocates have called on Gov. Kathy Hochul to use her executive power to require other localities to take in migrants, the state has shown no interest in doing so.
While a few counties have said they’re open to hosting asylum-seekers, many more will not entertain the notion of sharing responsibility for providing shelter to some of New York’s recent arrivals. Dozens of counties have announced emergency orders aimed at blocking New York City from transporting asylum-seekers to shelters and hotels within their borders.
The Adams administration promptly sued counties to overturn those emergency orders, but has run into a series of roadblocks, including finding that the city would have to argue each of those cases in each individual county. The city dropped about half of those 31 cases in mid-September. Another batch of cases were dismissed because some counties didn’t currently have orders in effect. As of Sept. 18, four lawsuits – against Rockland, Orange, Onondaga and Dutchess counties – are ongoing, Politico New York reported.
More than half of New York’s 62 counties have tried to shut their doors to asylum-seekers. Here’s the full list of those counties, followed by a much shorter list of counties that have welcomed asylum-seekers. This post was last updated on Sept. 22, 2023.
Closing their doors:
In a course reversal, Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced Aug. 12 that he will refuse additional asylum-seeker arrivals after a migrant was arrested and charged for allegedly sexually assaulting an employee at a motel. Another asylum-seeker was also been charged for raping a woman in a different hotel the week prior. “Erie County opened its arms to try to welcome these new Americans,” Poloncarz said during a press conference. “Unfortunately we believe we can’t make the program, as it is presently run, sustainable without significant changes.” Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced it would be deploying additional members of the National Guard to help stabilize the situation. About 540 migrants have arrived in Erie County from New York City as of Aug. 14. Prior to his shifted stance, Poloncarz had stated that Erie would not be issuing an executive order to block asylum-seekers, but arguing that those emergency orders aren’t legal. “Not only is such an order illegal under Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is morally repugnant,” he said in a statement on May 20.
The barring of additional migrants to the county was recently made official when a judge granted the Town of Cheektowaga – the only town in Erie County to take in migrants – a temporary restraining order blocking the city and DocGo from sending more asylum-seekers. While no decisions have been made yet, there’s a possibility that Cheektowaga could pursue evicting the migrants currently staying in the hotels.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day was quick to act to thwart Adams’ plans to send about 340 asylum-seekers to hotels in the Hudson Valley county, declaring a state of emergency and issuing an executive order that blocked hotels in the county from being used as shelters for the asylum-seekers. On May 11, Rockland County succeeded in getting a temporary restraining order to block a hotel that was set to host some of the asylum-seekers from doing so. Day, a Republican, has said that Rockland isn’t equipped to take in asylum-seekers. He also issued some harsh words to Adams over the plan. “(Adams) never asked for an opinion, he just said, ‘Screw you, Rockland County,’” Day said on WABC. “Mr. Adams, you try to run us over, I will reach up and grab you by the throat for the people of Rockland County.” As of May 12, the Adams administration had not sent any migrants to Rockland County.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, another Hudson Valley Republican, also declared a state of emergency and issued an executive order aimed at keeping hotels or other short-term housing from sheltering asylum-seekers. But two buses of migrants arrived at a hotel in Newburgh on May 11, prompting Neuhaus to lash out at Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul. “Last night, both the state and city assured the Town of Newburgh and Orange County that no buses with asylum-seekers would be here until further notice,” Neuhaus said in a statement. “The process has been a disorganized disaster and the blame lies with the mayor of New York, who originally opened the door for as many undocumented immigrants as possible to his self-proclaimed sanctuary city, and the governor. She has sat back and done nothing as this crisis has negatively impacted New York state.” On May 16, a judge granted Neuhaus a restraining order preventing New York City from sending more migrants to Orange County.
Republican Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente issued a similar emergency order on May 10 aimed at stopping hotels or shelters from accepting migrants. “It's not about being cold-hearted,” Picente said of the move. “We are a warm-hearted community, but a problem that has been created on the national level and now on the state level in which nobody has a solution, has made it our problem. I will not accept that on behalf of this county.”
Broome County Executive Jason Garnar, a Democrat, also declared a preemptive state of emergency in an aim to keep asylum-seekers from being sent to the Southern Tier county. Garnar said that the county does not have the capacity to provide shelter to any migrants, and the executive order notes that the situation “threatens public safety.”
Schuyler County has also issued an executive order that bars hotels or other lodgings from entering into contracts to house asylum-seekers.
Rensselaer County declared a state of emergency in May to keep any municipality or hotel from entering into a contract to house migrants in the Capital Region county. “We do not have the structure or the resources to take care of these people being forced out of New York City,” Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin, a Republican, said in a statement.
Chemung County in the Southern Tier has issued a state of emergency aimed at keeping asylum-seekers from being housed there without permission from Republican County Executive Christopher Moss.
Tioga County, also in the Southern Tier, declared a state of emergency barring any municipality from entering contracts to transport or house migrants, and barring any hotels or other lodging places from entering contracts with other municipalities to provide housing without permission from the county.
Niagara is one of several Western New York counties that have declared states of emergency to keep hotels from serving as shelter to asylum-seekers, with county leaders stating that they don’t have the resources to support any transfer of migrants from New York City.
Chautauqua County Executive Paul Wendel Jr., a Republican, declared a state of emergency on May 18 to keep other municipalities from sending migrants to the county and to keep hotels from contracting with other municipalities to house them without permission from the county. Wendel said that Chautauqua County is already supporting immigrant families and doesn’t have the resources to support an additional influx.
Wyoming County Chairwoman Rebecca Ryan also cited a housing crisis in declaring a state of emergency to keep asylum-seekers from “seeking refuge” in the county.
Though its leaders said they’re not aware of plans to send asylum-seekers to Allegany County, the county still declared a preemptive state of emergency in a bid to keep that from happening.
Orleans County Legislature Chair Lynne Johnson, a Republican, signed an emergency order to prevent New York City (or any other municipality) from transporting asylum-seekers to the county, and to keep hotels from working with other localities to house asylum-seekers without Orleans County’s approval.
Genesee County Manager L. Matthew Landers issued a state of emergency on May 17, citing New York City’s plans to transfer asylum-seekers to upstate counties as a “threat to public safety.” A subsequent emergency order on May 22 bars municipalities and hotels within the county from arranging to transport or house migrants without the county’s permission.
Cattaraugus County is yet another county in Western New York that declared a state of emergency in a bid to prevent New York City or the state from sending asylum-seekers there.
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, a Republican, issued an emergency order that follows the style of many of his fellow county executives; banning other localities from contracting with any business or municipality in the county to transport or house asylum-seekers without permission from the county. The order has received some pushback from immigration advocates in the area. Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley later said that his department will play no role in enforcing the order.
On May 12, Republican Cortland County Legislature Chair Kevin Fitch declared a state of emergency over the potential of New York City sending migrants to upstate counties, and issued a subsequent order aimed at blocking hotels or any other entities from arranging to house asylum-seekers.
On May 12, Herkimer County Legislative Chair Jim Bono cited housing supply issues and concerns about getting reimbursed in a state of emergency aimed at preventing New York City from sending asylum-seekers to the county. A subsequent emergency order prevents hotels and other businesses from taking in migrants without the county’s permission.
In a press conference on May 15, Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said that the county would not participate in taking in asylum-seekers. “It is not responsibility of local government, it is the responsibility of federal government to have a national policy,” Blakeman said, according to News 12. “To invite people in who are undocumented, not knowing who they are or why they are here, I think is very faulty and something we do not endorse in Nassau.”
Otsego County also issued a state of emergency effective May 16, that bars any hotels or businesses from arranging to take in asylum-seekers without county approval. “I am concerned if we do not properly plan for any influx of migrants resulting from the change in federal Title 42, we may see a substantial increase in homelessness in our communities, as well as an excessive financial burden on the citizens of Otsego County,” Board of Representatives Chair David Bliss said in a statement. “State and/or federal funding must accompany any relocations so as not to deplete our already limited resources dedicated to the care of our existing homeless and distressed population.”
Oswego County Legislature Chair James Weatherup, a Republican, issued an emergency order on May 17 to keep hotels or other entities in the county from housing or transporting migrants there.
Dutchess County issued an executive order to keep migrants from being housed in hotels, and has cited that order in a lawsuit the county filed to put a stop to plans to send asylum-seekers currently in New York City to hotels in Poughkeepsie.
Madison County Board of Supervisors Chair John Becker issued the now familiar-order to block migrants from being transported to or housed in the county, with near-unanimous support from the rest of the board.
Greene County Legislature Chair Patrick Linger, a Republican, declared a state of emergency in an attempt to block hotels from hosting asylum-seekers, arguing that the county doesn’t have the infrastructure to support migrants.
Cayuga County Legislature Chair David Gould, also a Republican, declared a state of emergency on May 19 to block migrants from being sent to the Finger Lakes county, saying the county wouldn’t have the resources to manage it.
Citing limited housing stock, Sullivan County Manager Joshua Potosek also signed an executive order to keep hotels from contracting with municipalities to shelter migrants. That didn’t stop New York City from sending about 80 asylum-seekers to a hotel there, however.
On May 19, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chair Theodore Kusnierz issued a state of emergency over the potential for asylum-seekers to be sent from New York City to other counties, and an emergency order that aims to prevent them from being transported or sheltered there.
Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chair Scott Horton, a Republican, also declared a state of emergency and issued an emergency order on May 19 with the same intent; keeping asylum-seekers from being housed in the county.
Suffolk County leaders said in a May 21 press conference that they are pursuing legal options, including bringing on a special counsel, to prevent New York City from sending asylum-seekers to the Long Island county. On May 26, Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone took the step of issuing an emergency order that requires hotels and other lodging places to coordinate with Suffolk County before entering a contract with another municipality to house asylum-seekers.
In declaring a state of emergency to prevent New York City from sending migrants, Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chair Matt Murell said the county’s resources were already strained and it would be unable to take in any number of asylum-seekers partly due to lack of a homeless shelter.
Delaware County declared a state of emergency that follows the model used by other counties; aiming to prevent asylum-seekers from being sent there by requiring a license from the county for any hotel or business to enter a contract with another municipality to take in migrants.
Republican Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne issued a state of emergency and several emergency orders to keep migrants from being sent to the Hudson Valley county. One of the associated emergency orders explicitly calls Putnam “not a sanctuary county” and pledges to support federal immigration enforcement efforts.
On May 23, Warren County Board of Supervisors Chair Kevin Geraghty declared a state of emergency that warns against an influx of asylum-seekers to the county. But the order also seems to be aimed at preparing for the possibility that migrants could be sent there, with a press release noting that the county has put together a task force to respond if that happens. “Warren County residents and leaders have a long history of welcoming individuals from around the world to our beautiful county,” Geraghty said in the press release. “However, a rapid increase of individuals in need of social services, public health assistance and other services provided by our county, city and town agencies has the potential to create significant problems for Warren County and municipalities across the county without proper planning and funding.”
The northern border county declared a state of emergency on May 23 that County Legislature Chair Ed Lockwood described as “putting the state on notice, letting them know that we don’t have enough housing if they do need to ship some of the illegal immigrants,” according to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Yates County was among the localities to preemptively declare a state of emergency in May, over fears that New York City would attempt to relocate asylum-seekers within its borders.
Schoharie County declared a similar state of emergency in late May, citing a housing shortage in the county to explain why it’s “not capable of receiving and sustaining any number of migrants and/or asylum seekers.”
Schenectady County became the latest locality to declare a state of emergency aimed at blocking asylum-seekers from being housed there without the county’s permission. The order, which came later than similar orders from a few dozen other counties in the state, followed reports that guests were removed from a motel in Rotterdam to make room for asylum-seekers being relocated from New York City. The county cited a limited housing supply in its emergency order.
St. Lawrence County
St. Lawrence County declared a state of emergency over asylum-seekers back in May that was most recently extended through Oct. 6. Pressed for assistance to find locations to house migrants, the federal government identified a spot within St. Lawrence County – Massena International Airport – that could be used for temporary housing, but local elected officials have pushed back hard against the suggestion.
Despite having no reason to believe that asylum-seekers might be on the way, Ontario County declared a state of emergency in mid-August aimed at requiring county approval for any other government entity to house more than 10 people in emergency housing in the county.
Seneca County declared a state of emergency in late August, citing a housing needs assessment report that found a critical shortage of housing. “As much as we would love to help everyone, we have to be mindful that taking care of our citizens and looking out for their safety and best interests come first,” Seneca County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Enslow said at the time. “Our housing situation is currently bursting at the seams and combines with a stressed and overworked public assistance network.”
Opening their doors a crack:
New York City isn’t the only sanctuary city in the state; cities including Albany and Ithaca have sanctuary policies on the books. And Westchester County Executive George Latimer said this week that he is open to taking in some asylum-seekers. “If we can manage some numbers, with proper services and controls in place, we, too, can help,” Latimer wrote in an op-ed in The Journal News. “We do not have the resources to take on overwhelming numbers – if other places, everywhere each do a modest share, we can make this influx manageable.”
On May 23, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy declared a state of emergency over the asylum-seeker crisis, but directed the county’s Department of Social Services to coordinate with the state on a plan to take in up to 200 families. Hotels and other businesses are still required to get permission from the county arranging to house asylum-seekers. As of May 30, more than 100 asylum-seekers had been sent to the county from New York City, including a group welcomed by Democratic Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and a group sent to Colonie, where Republican Town Supervisor Peter Crummey obtained a court order to prevent more from being sent.
Democratic Monroe County Executive Adam Bello issued an order that requires hotels or other businesses to get county approval before entering into contracts to house asylum-seekers. The order resembles those of other counties who have vehemently opposed any migrants being sent to their municipalities, citing housing supply issues, but in a statement, Bello appeared more open to taking in asylum-seekers – but only with county approval and collaboration. “This Emergency Order does not prevent migrants from coming to Monroe County while they await resolution of their legal asylum application,” Bello said in a statement. “Rather, it ensures that if migrants need to be housed here, it is done so in a thoughtful way with a reasonable plan in place to protect everyone involved.”