Mayor Eric Adams’ administration is suing 17 charter bus companies for alleged violations of state law in transporting tens of thousands of migrants to the Big Apple over the past 20 months, at the behest of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and saddling the city with the cost.
The suit announced Thursday marks the latest escalation between Adams’ and Abbott’s administrations over the past few days and seeks to recoup roughly $708 million, which the city has so far spent on housing, feeding and otherwise providing for over 33,600 migrants sent here by the Lone Star State since April 2022.
The action was filed in New York County Supreme Court on Jan. 4 by the city’s Law Department, the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP — which is representing the city Department of Social Services, and former DSS commissioner Steve Banks, who is serving as special counsel.
The 17 Texas-based bus companies named in the suit include Buckeye Coach LLC, Carduan Tours LLC, Classic Elegance Coaches LLC and several others.
In the suit, the city alleges that the companies have violated Section 149 of the New York State Social Services Law, which stipulates that anyone who brings individuals from out of state to New York to become a “public charge” here is responsible for covering the cost of caring for them.
Specifically, it says: “[a]ny person who knowingly brings, or causes to be brought, a needy person from out of state into this state for the purpose of making him a public charge…shall be obligated to convey such person out of state or support him at his own expense.”
The mayor, in a statement, said the city can no longer pay for Abbott’s “reckless political ploys.”
“Today, we are taking legal action against 17 companies that have taken part in Texas Gov. Abbott’s scheme to transport tens of thousands of migrants to New York City in an attempt to overwhelm our social services system,” Mayor Adams said in the statement. “These companies have violated state law by not paying the cost of caring for these migrants … Gov. Abbott’s continued use of migrants as political pawns is not only chaotic and inhumane but makes clear he puts politics over people. Today’s lawsuit should serve as a warning to all those who break the law in this way.”
‘Bad faith’ scheme from Texas
The city is targeting the bus operators for implementing Abbott’s “bad faith” scheme to send thousands of migrants from the southern border to northern “Sanctuary Cities,” which it alleges has made them millions of dollars in profits due to inflated rates paid by Texas’ government.
“Gov. Abbott continues to use human beings as political pawns, and it’s about time that the companies facilitating his actions take responsibility for their role in this ongoing crisis,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul in a statement. “If they are getting paid to break the law by transporting people in need of public assistance into our state, they should be on the hook for the cost of sheltering those individuals — not just passing that expense along to hard-working New Yorkers.”
Abbott fired back in a statement Thursday night, calling the suit “baseless” and claimed that every migrant being bussed to the city at his behest is traveling here “voluntarilly.”
Adams’ action comes after he recently issued an executive order placing strict limits on when and where buses carrying migrants to New York could make drop offs, which came in response to a recent uptick in the coaches being sent by Texas. But the executive order proved mostly futile as the bus operators quickly found a way to circumvent it over the weekend — dropping off newcomers at New Jersey train stations from which they could easily commute into the city.
For more than a year now, the mayor has said that the flood of migrants — over 164,500 newcomers have arrived here since spring 2022 — coming from Texas and elsewhere is hurting the city’s financial health and depleting its resources. He has long argued the federal government needs to do much more to alleviate the city’s burden, by providing far more financial assistance and directing migrants to other parts of the country.
But some frequent critics of the administration’s approach to the migrant crisis characterized the lawsuit as a distraction. Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said the move is just another “ineffective” strategy from the administration that will not create the “lasting change” needed to handle new arrivals flowing into the city for the forseeable future.
“This lawsuit is just another tactic in the Adams administration’s grab bag of ineffective approaches that have nothing to do with creating lasting change,” Awawdeh said, in a statement. “The Mayor needs to stop complaining that the city is at a breaking point and scapegoating immigrants.”