New York City, NY

NY Judge Claims Racism Behind Banning of Migrant Relocation

Anne Spollen

Currently, there are five known ongoing New York state court cases regarding the relocation of asylum seekers from New York City to outlying locations within the state. Several state judges have issued temporary orders forbidding any relocation of asylum seekers from New York City. In a White Plains courtroom, federal judge Nelson Román suggested the orders stemmed from racism, mentioning Jim Crow several times during the Thursday morning hearing. Román was considering the validity of varying executive orders blocking the entry of asylum seekers outside of the city.

The June 1 hearing was held in response to a New York Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed on behalf of several asylum seekers. The allegation is that executive orders issued by Rockland and Orange counties control immigration matters that are under the authority of federal law. The explosive portion of the lawsuit is an allegation that the asylum seekers are being targeted due to racism and that their right to travel has been limited, which is in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Román said that the executive orders smelled "like a Jim Crow law − not that I'm saying it is," though he mentioned the analogy several other times during the hearing.

Jim Crow is a reference to laws once enacted in the American south that legally enforced racial segregation. Those laws ended in the 1960s.

Assistant Rockland County Attorney Larraine Feiden argued that allowing the asylum seekers to migrate to Rockland County is "very likely going to affect the quality of life for Rockland County residents." She also argued that Rockland's ban was not in violation of anyone's constitutional rights.

But Román was notably agitated during the hearing. At one point, he said loudly to Feiden, "That is the most dishonest response I've ever received," while she was answering a question as to whether the orders interfered with the migrants' ability to travel.

After Feiden pointed to "the potential for harm" and "the potential for mayhem" that would occur if hundreds of migrants took up residence at a Rockland County hotel, Román responded, "Do you get a sense for what this sounds like?"

While Thursday's hearing did not bring forth a ruling, the judge indicated he would most likely find orders banning migrant relocation unconstitutional. The earliest decision expected from Román would be Monday, June 5.

Román's order, if issued against the bans, may not succeed in allowing migrants to enter other New York counties. There are state regulations that govern housing for the homeless and there are local zoning laws that may be invoked to prevent New York City from busing the migrants to other locations.

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Second generation native Staten Islander, writer following the migrant crisis, urban issues, lifestyle topics, human interest, current events, and stories that resonate. Published novelist and essayist.

Staten Island, NY

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