Santabarbara introduces bill to require notice, transparency with asylum-seeker relocation within New York

FILE — State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, speaks at Maple Pine Manor in Schenectady in May.
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FILE  State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, speaks at Maple Pine Manor in Schenectady in May.

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Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, has introduced a bill that would establish statewide guidelines to ensure advance consultation occurs between state and municipal officials before any resettlement of immigrants or asylum seekers in the state. 

The bill’s introduction comes in the wake of the relocation of 283 asylum-seekers from New York City to the Super 8 Motel in Rotterdam on July 18, with the motel’s residents displaced without notice after the motel reached an agreement to house asylum seekers from New York City.

Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said the bill is common-sense given the current situation. 

“What should have happened is we should have heard from the officials in New York City, particularly the mayor’s office, but that didn’t happen and he had no intention of doing it, because you saw the story today that they have continued to contact other motels in my assembly district without notifying local officials,” Santabarbara said. “So, they continue this irresponsible behavior and hence the need for this bill.”

The state Legislature typically meets from January to June, so Santabarbara’s bill, if taken up, would not go to a vote until next year. The bill didn’t have a co-sponsor in the state Senate, but the Democrat said since introducing the bill in the last 24 hours he’s had several state senators call him that are interested in co-sponsoring the bill. 

“I think they’re doing these things in secret, they’re springing it on these municipalities at the last second and they think that they don’t have to be held accountable. To this day, we have not gotten a call back from New York City — there’s no contact at all,” he said. “The damage that’s being done is being left behind. Whether that’s to the people that he’s transporting up here or the people that are being displaced — it’s really unfair.”

If the bill were to gain support and is passed in both houses, it would go to Hochul’s desk to be signed or vetoed. Hochul’s office has not publicly commented on what happened on July 18 and Santabarbara said the Governor’s Office has yet to get a response. 

When asked for comment on this article or if she would support Santabarbara’s bill, a spokeswoman for Hochul referred to comments the governor made about asylum-seekers in Orange County last month. It did not address Santabarbara’s bill or if the governor would support it. Hochul is currently in California with no public schedule. 

During an interview, Santabarbara did say he’s been in daily contact with state Attorney General Letitia James and people in her office. 

“I think the [attorney general] is going to play a big role in getting to the bottom of this,” Santabarbara said. “I think the AG’s office is going to hold people accountable. Any other rights that were violated in this process, any other laws that were violated — we need to track those down and ensure this doesn’t happen again by holding people accountable. whether that’s the mayor in New York City, staff, the people that they are coordinating with -— the motel owner was involved here. They all had a role and allowed this to happen in secret,” Santabarbara said, adding he believes he will find the answers.

“Government is not supposed to operate in secret and hence my bill that requires transparency. And apparently we need to require it, because people are not doing it on their own.”

By Ashley Hupfl

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