By Stefanos Chen and Jeffery C. Mays
Hundreds of migrants bound for New York City were taken to New Jersey over the holiday weekend, in an apparent attempt to bypass a city order that seeks to limit the chaotic flow of arrivals.
Since Saturday, 13 buses from Texas and Louisiana carrying about 450 migrants have arrived in New Jersey, including a bus that arrived early Monday in Jersey City, according to Steve Fulop, the city’s mayor. Other stops included New Jersey Transit hubs in Secaucus, Fanwood, Edison and Trenton.
The surge in New Jersey arrivals appears to be an end-run around an emergency executive order last week by New York City’s mayor, Eric Adams, requiring charter bus companies to provide 32 hours’ advance notice of the arrival of migrants and restricting the times of day when they can be dropped off.
“They’re using New Jersey essentially as a bus stop to circumvent the limits on buses that can arrive in New York,” Fulop said, adding that he is not yet concerned about the migrants’ passage through the state.
The buses — mostly from Texas, but at least one from Louisiana — had chaperones who assisted migrants in transferring to trains and buses heading into New York City. The office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said that while one of the bus companies was based in the state, the migrants aboard the bus came from Texas, and that their office was not involved.
A spokesperson for New Jersey’s governor, Philip Murphy, also a Democrat, said “nearly all” of the asylum-seekers arriving by bus had “continued with their travels en route to their final destination of New York City.” The spokesperson, Tyler Jones, added that the state was “closely coordinating” with local New Jersey officials, the federal government and New York City.
Adams signed his order last week to bring more structure to the process of buses dropping off migrants near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan at odd hours and without notice. Adams has said the city was being destroyed by the migrant crisis. Since the spring of 2022, New York City has processed more than 161,500 asylum-seekers, 68,000 of whom are in shelter and under the city’s care. New York City is required by court decree to provide shelter to those who ask.
Fourteen buses from Texas arrived in one day the week before last, a record since the city began processing large numbers of migrants who had been sent by Abbott.
Texas has sent migrants to cities run by Democrats in an effort to bring attention to the difficulties of states on the southern border and to force President Joe Biden to “secure the border,” the governor’s office has said. Abbott, a Republican, said he had sent 25,000 migrants to New York City.
“Texas Governor Greg Abbott continues to treat asylum-seekers like political pawns, and is instead now dropping families off in surrounding cities and states in the cold, dark of night with train tickets to travel to New York City, just like he has been doing in Chicago,” Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for Adams, said in a statement.
Adams said his executive order was modeled after laws in Chicago that placed limits on when and where migrants could be dropped off. Chicago officials said that in response to the restrictions, buses from Texas began dropping migrants off at O’Hare International Airport, on “random streets” and in neighboring suburbs.
Under Adams’ executive order, buses could only arrive Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and the drivers had to have manifests describing which passengers had arrived in the country in the last 90 days, how many might seek emergency shelter, and whether passengers were traveling as single adults or as part of a family.
Companies that violate the order face misdemeanor charges, which could result in three months in jail and a fine of $500 for individuals and $2,000 for corporations. The Police Department could also impound buses.
Some of the suburbs surrounding Chicago have begun to pass similar rules regulating when chartered buses carrying migrants can be dropped off. Camille Joseph Varlack, the chief of staff to Adams, said last week that they alerted surrounding municipalities about Adams’ executive order.
“It is not our intention to shift any burdens,” Varlack told WABC-TV last week.
The areas surrounding Chicago have experienced unexpected arrivals of migrants since the city implemented its laws. On Sunday, Mayor Brandon Johnson of Chicago said on social media that a private airplane originating in San Antonio arrived at Chicago Rockford International, an airport about 85 miles from downtown Chicago, with 350 asylum-seekers aboard.
In New York, Power Malu, whose organization Artists Athletes Activists has been meeting migrants at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and directing them to the city’s intake center, said his staff had not seen a bus of asylum-seekers arrive there since Friday when the Police Department began enforcing the order.
He called the arrival rules too stringent and said he had seen more migrants arriving at the intake center at the Roosevelt Hotel on foot after being dropped off elsewhere.
“They’re going to come to New York City because they are desperate and they’re looking for opportunity,” Malu said. “This is not going to slow down the flow and this is not going to stop them.”
Michael Gonnelli, the mayor of Secaucus, New Jersey, where several migrants disembarked over the weekend, said in a statement Sunday that the new rules might be too difficult to enforce and were “resulting in unexpected consequences” for transit hubs in New Jersey.