by Jonathan Turley
New York City Major Eric Adams announced on Thursday that he is suing bus companies for over $700 million for busing undocumented persons to the state. This is truly a thing to behold. It is a frivolous lawsuit based on an absurd law motivated by raw hypocrisy. In the meantime, the Biden Administration has been flying migrants to outside the city but no lawsuit is expected.
New York City politicians have long heralded their status as a sanctuary city. Yet, it is now taking various methods to prevent migrants from seeking sanctuary by threatening anyone who brings them to the city.
The lawsuit will rely on New York Social Services Law § 149, which 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.”
Of course, these companies are not transporting people to make them a public charge. They are transporting these people because they or a third party paid the fare for transport. That statute expressly allows the commissioner of the New York City Department of Social Services (DSS) to sue to recover costs.
In seeking to impose crippling fines and damages on transportation companies, the lawsuit will likely be challenged as unconstitutional due to its vagueness, curtailment of interstate travel, and a host of other glaring problems.
This is clearly an effort to grind companies financially. It is doubtful that anyone in New York seriously believes that they can force bus or airline companies to pay for migrants coming to a self-proclaimed sanctuary city. It is a cynical effort to impose litigation costs on companies to get them to refuse to accept such contracts. Yet, how is a company supposed to determine if someone purchasing a ticket is a potential “public charge.” Does that apply to anyone who is impoverished? What proof of support is needed from the passenger? Such inquiries could themselves violate legal and constitutional protections.
Transportation companies sell seats for transport. They are not responsible for those who purchase the tickets for their ultimate support. They are not responsible for the costs that a traveler may impose on a given city. If that were the case, I would sue the airlines everytime they fly the Packers to Chicago to play football. (Now that I think about it ….hmmm)