New York (AP) — New York City is suing more than a dozen charter bus companies for $700 million, accusing them of illegally transporting tens of thousands of migrants from the southern border to the city under the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

The lawsuit accuses 17 bus companies of participating in a "bad faith" relocation plan that violates state restrictions on abandoning "needy persons" in New York. It seeks financial damages to cover the cost of caring for an estimated 33,000 migrants that have arrived in the city on charter buses since the spring of 2022.

Filed in state court Thursday, the lawsuit marked the latest effort by a Democratic mayor to turn back busloads of asylum seekers sent by the Republican governor of Texas. The state has sent more than 95,000 migrants to so-called sanctuary cities, including New York, Chicago and Denver, in protest of President Joe Biden's immigration policies, Abbott said last month.

Amid an increase in bus drop-offs, both New York City and Chicago announced new restrictions in recent weeks mandating the charter companies to provide advanced notice of their arrivals. Within days, many of the buses began leaving migrants in suburbs surrounding each city without prior notice, drawing anger from local officials.

On Thursday, New York City Eric Adams, a Democrat, said the city would no longer "bear the costs of reckless political ploys from the state of Texas alone," adding the lawsuit should "serve as a warning to all those who break the law in this way."

Some of the bus companies appeared caught off guard by the suit. "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."

Representatives for the other charter companies — most of which are based in Texas — either declined to comment or did not immediately respond to inquiries.

The recent focus on the private charter 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.

The lawsuit rests on a provision of state law that bars knowingly transferring "a needy person from out of state into this state for the purpose of making him a public charge."

The suit cites a report finding that for the trips, the charter bus companies receive roughly $1,650 per person — far higher than the cost of a standard one-way bus ticket — as a testament to the companies' "bad faith" involvement in the scheme.

In a statement, Gov. Abbott said the suit was a clear violation of the commerce clause, which guarantees the constitutional right to travel.

"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. "As such, they have constitutional authority to travel across the country that Mayor Adams is interfering with."

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, described the legal action as a distraction from the larger issues facing New York, arguing Mayor Adams should be focused on helping migrants get on their feet.
"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 Governor Abbott's playbook and step up and lead the city of New York."

By JAKE OFFENHARTZ Associated Press
Associated Press reporter David Collins contributed.