Supervisor Yvette Aguiar during a Town Board meeting in March. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar says all the other Suffolk town supervisors support her emergency declaration attempting to ban the relocation of asylum-seekers from New York City to places of lodging in the Town of Riverhead. But other Suffolk supervisors say otherwise.

In a press release last night, Aguiar circulated a statement issued by the Suffolk County Supervisors Association, claiming it was “a show of support” for her order issued Tuesday declaring a state of emergency in Riverhead Town.

The association’s statement did not mention Aguiar’s executive order or discuss the authority of any town supervisor to issue such an order. It called on the president and both houses of Congress to “step up, stop finger pointing and finally figure out how to handle this issue…,” referring to the country’s immigration system and the placement of asylum seekers in the country. 

“It should not, and cannot be left to local governments to shoulder this burden, or take on the responsibility for this issue,”  the statement says.

Suffolk County Supervisors Association Chairperson Rich Schaffer said today the association’s statement “clearly did not indicate support” for Aguiar’s emergency order. 

“I personally would not support that because I don’t believe it’s based in law,” said Schaffer, who is Babylon town supervisor.  “It wouldn’t be something I could enact because it doesn’t fall under the requirements of what you use to declare a state of emergency,” he said.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell agreed. 

“The supervisors had no such discussion about weighing in on the emergency order,” Russell said.

“I am certain town supervisors have no such authority to stop people from entering or leaving their towns,” Russell said. “No supervisor has such authority and, frankly, shouldn’t.” 

Russell said he has already had multiple requests from Southold residents asking him to issue a similar order. “We do have people who are nervous in my community and I would not give them a false sense of security,” he said.

Both Schaffer, a Democrat, and Russell, a Republican, said the supervisors association statement was intentionally specific to addressing the overall problem of migrants and asylum seekers at the southern border who are being bused north to states like New York.

“We believe the entire federal government has failed us, that the federal government needs to stop finger pointing. We don’t care whether it’s the Democratic President or the Republican House of Representatives leader. They knew this day was coming and they failed us miserably,” Schaffer said. 

Aguiar’s characterization of the statement as a show of support for her action is misleading, according to both Schaffer and Russell.

“It’s not what the statement says,” Schaffer said.

Aguiar could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.

Similar executive orders signed last week by the county executives of Rockland and Orange counties upstate drew federal class action lawsuits filed Monday by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The NYCLU lawsuit claims the executive orders violate the plaintiffs’ rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution, as well as the federal Civil Rights Act provisions that prohibit “discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin and a federal law protecting the rights of all people within the jurisdiction of the U.S. to make and enforce contracts and have the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property.” The suit also claims the executive orders violate provisions of New York State Executive Law pertaining to the declaration of emergencies by a local government chief executive and to unlawful discrimination.

“Orange and Rockland County’s Emergency Orders egregiously violate migrants’ rights,” NYCLU Director of Immigrants’ Rights Litigation Amy Belsher said in a press release Monday. 

“Migrants have every right to travel and reside anywhere in New York, free of xenophobic harassment and discrimination,” Belser said. “People are not political pawns – both counties should welcome migrants into their communities, not unlawfully bar them from seeking refuge.”

Rockland County Executive Edwin Day and Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus made “racist and incendiary accusations about immigrants and threatened to deploy law enforcement to block buses transporting migrants,” according to the NYCLU press release. The Rockland County executive “speculated that migrants intending to relocate to the county may be ‘child rapists,’ ‘criminals,’ or gang members,” according to the press release.  

Council Member Tim Hubbard made similar statements yesterday in defense of Riverhead’s emergency declarations.

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