Today New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix announced a lawsuit against 17 charter bus and transportation companies that seeks to recoup all costs New York City has incurred providing emergency shelter and services to migrants transported by the charter bus companies — totaling at least approximately $708 million in the last 20 months. Since the spring of 2022, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has admitted to facilitating the transport of more than 33,600 migrants to New York City without having the companies transporting those migrants pay for the cost of continued care in violation of New York’s Social Services Law. Today’s suit seeks to recoup the hundreds of millions of dollars incurred to care for all these individuals, costs moving forward for any of those migrants still in New York City’s care, and costs for all those who are transported to New York City from Texas in the future as part of Governor Abbott’s plan.
“New York City has and will always do our part to manage this humanitarian crisis, but we cannot bear the costs of reckless political ploys from the state of Texas alone,” said Mayor Adams. “Today, we are taking legal action against 17 companies that have taken part in Texas Governor Abbott’s scheme to transport tens of thousands of migrants to New York City in an attempt to overwhelm our social services system. These companies have violated state law by not paying the cost of caring for these migrants, and that’s why we are suing to recoup approximately $700 million already spent to care for migrants sent here in the last two years by Texas. Governor 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.”
“Governor Abott continues to use human beings as political pawns, and it is about time that the companies facilitating his actions take responsibility for their role in this ongoing crisis,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul. “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. I am proud to support the mayor’s lawsuit.”
The 17 defendants named in today’s lawsuit knowingly implemented Governor Abbott’s publicly articulated plan without any regard for the individuals they were transporting or an effort to help manage this humanitarian crisis. Rather, it has been “bad faith” conduct — from which the bus and transportation companies are profiting — to execute Texas’s plan to sow chaos and shift the traditional cost of migration at the southern border to New York City and other cities across the country.
New York Social Services Law § 149, however, requires that “[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.” That statute expressly authorizes the commissioner of the New York City Department of Social Services (DSS) to sue to recover those costs. Today’s lawsuit seeks repayment of all costs — including shelter, food, health care, and more — totaling at least approximately $708 million for all of the more than 33,600 migrants already transported from Texas to New York City, as well as all costs for migrants who continue to be sent to New York City in the future.
Together with the New York City Department of Law, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP is representing the DSS commissioner in the lawsuit, led by firm chair Brad S. Karp, partner Michele Hirshman, and special counsel and former DSS Commissioner Steven Banks.
“For too long, Governor Greg Abbott has chosen to play politics with people’s lives, putting migrants through unimaginable conditions and circumstances. Now, the bus and transportation companies contracted by the State of Texas must be held accountable for their participation in furthering his reckless actions,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. “Today’s lawsuit represents part of a larger series of proactive actions our administration is taking to continue to successfully manage this humanitarian crisis largely on our own.”
“The bus companies participating in Governor Abbott’s diabolical scheme to break New York City’s already-strained social services system by abandoning tens of thousands of migrants in our city, in our care, and at our cost. They are acting inhumanely, and they are breaking our laws,” said Chief Advisor Chaplain Ingrid P. Lewis-Martin. “With this lawsuit, we aim to recoup the approximately $708 million in costs we’ve already incurred to provide emergency shelter and care to the migrants, who these 17 bus companies have transported to New York City. These companies, that have decided to partner with Governor Abbott, should bear the costs associated with the care of the migrants.”
“Since April 2022, New York City has allocated billions of dollars to provide food, shelter, and more to more than 164,000 asylum seekers. These efforts have had an impact on every service our city provides,” said Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack. “Tens of thousands of those asylum seekers have come to our city through charter bus companies that saw this as a lucrative opportunity to earn Texas government contracts. They wrongly assumed that their obligations to these asylum seekers stopped after they got off the buses. We are suing these bus companies so they fulfill their legal responsibility to continue to support the asylum seekers they dropped off, and so, in the future, these bus companies should think twice before supporting Governor Abbott’s reckless scheme to induce chaos in New York City.”
“New York’s social service law prohibits exactly what these bus companies are doing,” said City Hall Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg. “They are participating in a ‘bad faith’ plan orchestrated by the state of Texas to shift the costs of care for needy individuals to New Yorkers and overwhelm our social services system. The law is clear: By participating in this reckless scheme, these bus companies take on responsibility for those costs.”
“This case is part of New York City’s effort to deal with a growing national humanitarian crisis,” said Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix. “This lawsuit seeks to enjoin these companies from participating in an unlawful scheme and hold them fully accountable.”
“Each week, thousands of individuals and families newly arriving to the city come through our system seeking a path to the American Dream, often without coordination, forewarning from their prior entry point in the United States, and lacking the basic necessities of food and access to medical care,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “The Texas state government has, to this point, intentionally sent people seeking asylum to New York City and has done so without coordination with city officials. Today’s lawsuit seeks to hold parties involved in that action accountable for participating in that effort and to recoup associated costs incurred by the city. We will continue to act to meet our obligations, but we will also seek opportunities to hold those accountable at every step of the process.”
“For nearly two years now, our incredible city workers have stepped up every day to deliver one of the nation’s most impressive and effective responses to this ongoing humanitarian crisis,” said DSS Commissioner Molly Wasow Park. “Even as our shelter census has more than doubled with the influx of asylum seekers, and we have nearly exhausted every city resource, we continue to find ways to provide vital supports for thousands of migrants who continue to arrive from border states every week. While we couldn’t be prouder of how this administration has defended against Governor Greg Abbott’s dangerous attempts to disrupt the delivery of critical services for vulnerable New Yorkers while playing with the lives of recently-arrived asylum seekers, we must use every legal tool at our disposal to hold all bad actors accountable and put a stop to this vile and willful disregard for the lives of vulnerable human beings.”
“Executive orders and lawsuits by states and municipalities have become regular, stopgap measures to address immigration issues that the executive and legislative branches of the federal government have been derelict in remedying for years,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. “New York City should rightly be lauded for the extraordinary response made to meet the humanitarian needs of asylum seekers arriving in our city. Our nation desperately needs to ensure fair and humane immigration laws and policies. These must include humanitarian assistance, safety from persecution, preservation of family unity, labor and alternative pathways, generous and orderly entry, secure borders, fair and timely adjudication of claims, and work authorization. Our nation and its institutions — government, business, civic, nonprofit, and religious organizations, and others — urgently need to work together to establish an effective immigration system.”
Today’s lawsuit also builds on Executive Order 538, issued by Mayor Adams last week, that requires improved coordination from charter bus companies transporting new migrant arrivals into New York City, ensuring the safety and well-being of both migrants and city staff receiving them. Indeed, many of the bus companies sued today are the same companies that are now evading compliance with the executive order by busing migrants to New Jersey train stations and then having the migrants take a train to New York City.
Between April 2022 and December 2023, the city has already spent an estimated $3.5 billion on shelter and services for the over 164,500 individuals who have come through the city’s intake center. As the Adams administration continues to prioritize helping migrants live independently, without significant or timely state and federal assistance, the city plans to pursue a 20 percent reduction in city-funded spending on the migrant crisis in the Fiscal Year 2024 Preliminary Budget, which will be released later this month.
Since this humanitarian crisis began, the city has taken fast and urgent action, opening more than 210 emergency sites, including 18 large-scale humanitarian relief centers, to provide shelter to migrants; standing up navigation centers with support from community-based organizations to connect new arrivals with critical resources; enrolling thousands of children in public schools through Project Open Arms; opening application help centers that have helped submit over 25,000 asylum, Temporary Protected Status, and work authorization applications; and more. Last spring, the city released “The Road Forward: A Blueprint to Address New York City’s Response to the Asylum Seeker Crisis,” detailing how the city will continue to manage the influx of asylum seekers and advocate for support from federal and state partners.