On Monday May 22nd, Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne executed and filed a State of Emergency and three Executive Orders in relation to New York City’s recent moves to relocate asylum seekers to Hudson Valley counties without proper coordination with local municipalities. With news that buses of migrants were dropped off in Dutchess County, every county surrounding Putnam is now reportedly home to asylum seekers/migrants from New York City’s upstate relocation program.
“The purpose of these executive orders is to give the County the ability to preserve residents’ rights, protect their well-being, and enforce county established laws and codes, in the wake of what has clearly become a disorganized, muddy operation by New York City officials,” said County Executive Byrne. “The President’s refusal to take ownership of this crisis and take corrective actions to secure our nation’s southern border and fix the asylum-seeking process leaves New York City and its surrounding communities in a mess. New York City continues to rely on its poorly planned operations which set the stage to overburden and place significant hardship on communities in the Hudson Valley and further upstate. Several of our neighboring municipalities, governed by both Democrat and Republican officials, have justifiably taken pre-emptive action to protect their communities. We’ve put an incredible amount of thought into this decision and considering numerous internal reports of the City’s lack of transparency and cooperation with local municipalities, we will not wait any longer to act.”
The executive orders attached to County Executive Byrne’s emergency declaration affords the County the flexibility to re-direct county resources to enforce sanitary code, as well as directs hotels, motels and those with temporary residency permits not to accept migrants and asylum seekers from NYC essentially transforming them into homeless shelters absent a shared services agreement with Putnam County. The third executive order further defines Putnam County not a “sanctuary county” but declares itself a “rule of law” county. This is an important distinction as a practical matter as many of those municipalities with a “sanctuary” designation have taken on the roll and responsibility of housing asylum seekers; Putnam County has not.
The “rule of law” county designation recommits the county’s law enforcement relationship with federal immigration enforcement agencies in addition to its support of the U.S. Constitution, state Constitution, County Charter, and other laws. The emergency declaration and its corresponding executive orders, if not extended, sunset after 30 days.
Last week, County Executive Byrne sent a letter to all hotels, motels, and temporary residencies in Putnam County asking for their cooperation and transparency in communicating if they have received an inquiry from New York City officials or their representatives regarding rooms for migrants.
This declaration follows multiple calls with Putnam County’s mayors and supervisors, various communications with New York City Mayor Adams, including a letter sent on May 11th, and direct communication with Governor Kathy Hochul and Commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security Jackie Bray.
Over the past several weeks, Putnam County officials have also been in communication with neighboring counties (Rockland, Orange, Dutchess, Westchester) about their plans moving forward, as part of an effort to foster transparency in the face of a lack of transparency from NYC and the federal government.