Immigrants set up a tent city in central New York
For days, immigrants from South America slept on the street in downtown New York City in front of the Watson Hotel in protest. Authorities offered to move them to a new shelter center opened last week in one of Brooklyn’s cruise terminals, but many undocumented migrants refused to move from the hotel where City Hall had temporarily housed them, citing crowding and the cold in the Brooklyn terminal. Nelvis, an immigrant from Venezuela, explains his decision to join the protest exactly this way.
“We don’t want to move there because it’s impossible to be there. There are folding beds and four toilets for a thousand people. It’s not warm enough or even cold enough. It’s still winter outside, and we think it could be even colder. We just want to live in human conditions. We are not demanding luxury or rich apartments. We want to live with dignity.”
Volunteers from local residents and representatives of human rights organizations decided to support the immigrants’ demands and for several days provided them with warm clothes, blankets, and hot food. Arealis Figuera also came to support the immigrants and believes the city government should help them more.
“These people have already suffered so much. Why not try to find some kind of solution. It’s going to be a temporary solution anyway. Why are they trying to move them? Why not put them in a place where they can stay right away?”
Justin Chong an activist with the Coalition for Civil Rights and Immigrant Rights (BAMN) calls on the mayor to create more shelters for immigrants coming to the city.
“We demand that Mayor Adams open more of these hotels and shelters in New York City to accommodate these refugees. We are against him sending them to this terminal in Brooklyn. There are no basic facilities and the place is overcrowded, unsanitary and cold.”
Since last spring, more than 40,000 undocumented immigrants have been sent by bus from the Mexican-U.S. border to New York City by the governors of the southern states. City officials are placing them in shelters and in inexpensive hotels, but there is no longer enough room. The Brooklyn terminal was supposed to defuse the situation in New York City.
The mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, has repeatedly appealed to the federal authorities to help the American metropolis, which was designated a sanctuary city ready to receive immigrants. The terminal in Brooklyn, which can accommodate a thousand people, is intended for single men, and some migrants moved there. After the scandal broke in the press, Mayor Adams personally visited the Brooklyn shelter and made a video on his Twitter account. In the video, the mayor himself talks about what he saw at the shelter.
“I decided to come here when I started getting all these rumors about it being cold. Look: this guy’s wearing shorts altogether. I tell you, it’s warm inside. They say there’s no food. There is food, very healthy food. There’s even fruit. We just have to stop being too nervous about it. I’ve talked to people. They have the same mindset. “We wanted to come here and work and pursue the American dream. We appreciate New Yorkers.” And I’ve heard that phrase several times.”
Critics of the mayor’s decision believe that in addition to the cramped conditions in the Brooklyn terminal, migrants who find themselves there will find it difficult to find work, being in a remote neighborhood in “transportation isolation.” But the immigrants’ protest has not been universally supported since the beginning of the action. Their demands have been called “whimsical by some.” The New York Post ironized in its pages that the new arrivals refused to leave Manhattan hotels. But regardless of their stance, everyone agreed on one thing: The problem with the tent campers in downtown Manhattan needs to be resolved by City Hall as soon as possible, before the bitter cold of February arrives.
The immigrant standoff outside the Watson Hotel in downtown Manhattan eventually ended a few days later at the request of police. But it may not be the last such incident. Buses carrying immigrants continue to arrive in New York City.
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