The family behind the company hired by New York City to help manage an influx of asylum seekers has been a generous supporter of several of the governors responsible for busing many of those migrants to the city, according to campaign finance records.
Texas-based SLSCO, or Sullivan Land Services Co., has been contracted by the city’s Office of Emergency Management to provide what city officials have described as “wrap around services” at the city’s Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers.
SLSCO’s contract includes staffing at a tent facility on Randall’s Island, which opened last month after Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency over the number of asylum seekers arriving daily from the southern border. The facility has the capacity to provide shelter for hundreds of people.
In recent months, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, along with other elected officials in border states, have used taxpayer dollars to send migrants from their states to New York and other cities such as Washington, D.C. and Chicago. More than 22,000 new asylum seekers have been processed through New York City’s intake system since April, with nearly 17,000 of them currently residing in city shelters and emergency centers, according to the Adams administration.
Abbott and DeSantis, both of whom are up for re-election in Tuesday's election, have both benefited from the largesse of the family behind SLSCO — to the tune of nearly $400,000 in total campaign contributions.
“This vicious corrupt cycle is the perfect example of not only how broken our immigration system is, but also how it’s designed to make a profit for the people who support it,” said City Councilmember Shahana Hanif of Brooklyn – chair of the Council’s immigration committee – when asked about the contributions.
Liz Rogers, a spokesperson for SLSCO, referred a request for comment to the city.
SLSCO is owned and operated by Todd, John and William Sullivan, three brothers from Galveston, Texas with a variety of high-profile business interests, including a disaster relief company, a marine terminal in Galveston’s port, and a $1.8 billion contract awarded during the Trump administration to build portions of a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
Since 2015, the brothers have given more than $350,000 in support of Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas, according to campaign finance data. The brothers and their company have also contributed $55,000 in support of DeSantis over the past two years. No Democrats appear in the brothers’ list of campaign contributions during that time.
Their father, Gerald Sullivan, also a prominent entrepreneur in Galveston, has given an additional $200,000 to Abbott since 2015.
Public records filed with the Texas secretary of state show ties between his business interests and his sons. Gerald Sullivan is listed as president of a company called Sullivan Enterprises alongside the three Sullivan brothers, who are also listed as officers of the company. He could not be immediately reached for comment.
Rogers, SLSCO’s spokesperson, said Gerald Sullivan has no role in his sons’ businesses.
I am not shocked to learn that this company, which has already profited off of xenophobic immigration policy, is funding the campaigns of the very people who are demonizing immigrants.
The mayor has been highly critical of Abbott and other governors for busing migrants to New York and elsewhere. He has described asylum seekers as arriving in the city without resources, some given no choice about where they were being sent.
“I think that Governor Abbott, what he’s doing, is just so inhumane,” Adams told reporters in August after migrants began arriving in the city this past summer.
Kate Smart, a spokesperson for the mayor, would not provide comment on the contractor’s campaign contributions. She instead pointed to comments the mayor made in September in response to questions about SLSCO’s border wall contract.
“I don’t know what they’re voting pattern is, if they vote for Trump or not,” Adams had said of the company in response to a question at a press event. “These are professionals that have done a good job and many projects in the city.”
City finance records show SLSCO has been paid more than $700 million for a number of past contracts dating as far back as 2016, including on-call disaster recovery, debris removal, and the construction of new homes under the city’s Build It Back program following Hurricane Sandy.
The city’s emergency management office would not disclose how much SLSCO is being paid to provide services at the city’s emergency response centers, which includes the provision of showers and laundry facilities at the Randall’s Island tent location, according to city officials. It said the company had been chosen based on its prior work on the city’s COVID-19 vaccine operations, and that details of the contract are still being finalized with the company and had yet to be officially registered,
The emergency management office said the contract has been given approval from the city comptroller’s office through the city’s emergency contracting process — but the comptroller’s office told Gothamist it had not received the contract.
Hanif called on the Adams’ administration to “ditch” the company.
“I am not shocked to learn that this company, which has already profited off of xenophobic immigration policy, is funding the campaigns of the very people who are demonizing immigrants,” she said.
Hanif has questioned the Adams administration before about its use of SLSCO to provide services to migrants in light of the firm’s border wall contract.
“I asked them how we could expect asylum seekers, many of whom have seen the border wall with their own eyes, to trust us if we were employing the very same people who built that wall to run the new humanitarian facilities," she said.
The company was awarded emergency contracts for the city’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the spring of 2020. City records show it has been paid over $350 million on the $400 million contract to date.
It was also contracted by former Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration to build and operate field hospitals in Queens and Brooklyn during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the news site The City and The New York Times, the facilities saw few patients – despite their multi-million dollar cost – and that SLSCO charged higher rates for medical staffing than other typical hospitals.
SLSCO has spent $330,000 since 2018 with the lobbying firm, The Carey Group, according to city records. Its targets have included the mayor’s office and the Office of Emergency Management, which is responsible for many of the company’s contracts.
Arya Sundaram contributed reporting.