By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) -New York City on Thursday filed a lawsuit accusing 17 bus companies of illegally transporting more than 33,000 migrants to the city from Texas as part of a campaign by the state’s Republican governor to expel people who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
The city is seeking $708 million, which it says is the cost is has incurred to provide shelter and services to the migrants over the last two years, in the lawsuit filed in New York state court in Manhattan.
The state of Texas is not a defendant in the lawsuit. The city named 17 charter bus companies that contracted with Texas to transport migrants, most of which are based in the state. The companies are small and do not have press relations offices where spokespersons could immediately be reached.
The lawsuit accuses the companies of violating a 19th-century New York law that requires anyone who transports “a needy person” likely to seek government assistance to New York from another state to cover their expenses.
The city claims the companies have earned millions of dollars while knowingly transporting migrants who would need shelter and services. The companies have brought tens of thousands more migrants from Texas to other U.S. cities including Chicago and Washington, D.C., according to the lawsuit.
Some of the companies have also violated an order from New York City Mayor Eric Adams requiring bus operators to notify the city if they are carrying 10 or more passengers who are likely to seek emergency shelter, the lawsuit claims.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott began sending buses of migrants to New York and other Democrat-led cities in 2022 in response to record numbers of migrants illegally crossing the border.
Abbott has sharply criticized President Joe Biden, a Democrat, over his response to the increase in border crossings and has implemented a series of measures aimed at deterring illegal migration.
The Biden administration filed a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to strike down a new Texas law that gives state officials broad powers to arrest, prosecute and deport migrants.
Abbott said in a statement that New York City’s lawsuit is baseless and that migrants have a constitutional right to travel across the country.
“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,” Abbott said.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)