NEW YORK - New York City is suing more than a dozen charter bus companies for their role in Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s operation to send tens of thousands of migrants to urban areas.
The lawsuit claims the 17 bus companies "knowingly implemented" Abbott’s busing plan in violation of a New York law that sets limits on transferring "needy persons" across state lines. It seeks more than $700 million in damages to recoup the cost of caring for an estimated 33,000 migrants that have arrived in the city on charter buses since April 2022.
Filed in state court Thursday, the lawsuit marked the latest effort by New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a moderate Democrat, to turn back the busloads of migrants sent from Texas each day. Abbott, a Republican, has said his goal is to draw attention to President Joe Biden’s border policy.
After 14 buses arrived in the city last month, Adams announced an executive order restricting when the buses could drop-off passengers and requiring advanced notice of their arrival. Within days, many of the companies began leaving migrants in towns surrounding New York City, drawing anger from local officials.
Some of the bus companies appeared caught off guard by the latest lawsuit. "We don’t make policies," said David Jones, an employee at Buckeye Coach LLC, one of the charter companies named in the lawsuit. "We are just a transportation company."
The recent focus on the bus companies, the Adams administration said, was driven in part by legal protections afforded to the state of Texas under a doctrine known as sovereign immunity. An emailed inquiry to Abbott was not immediately returned.
The lawsuit rests on a provision of New York law that applies to the "bad faith" transfer of people across state lines. Under the law, anyone 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" is obligated to care for that person’s expenses or bring them out of the state.
Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the Immigration Coalition, described the legal action as a distraction from the larger issues facing the city as it seeks to care for newly arrived migrants.
"This lawsuit is one more way for the mayor to scapegoat someone else for his lack of management of the situation," Awawdeh said. "He needs to stop taking pages out of Gov Abbott’s playbook and step up and lead the city of New York."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott also sent a statement saying, "This lawsuit is baseless and deserves to be sanctioned. It's clear that Mayor Adams knows nothing about the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, or about the constitutional right to travel that has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court. Every migrant bused or flown to New York City did so voluntarily, after having been authorized by the Biden Administration to remain in the United States. As such, they have constitutional authority to travel across the country that Mayor Adams is interfering with. If the Mayor persists in this lawsuit, he may be held legally accountable for his violations."