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The heated rhetoric over the migrant standoff in midtown Manhattan obscured a stark reality

Josephine Stratman, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK — To many, the scene that unfolded over the last week in Hell’s Kitchen was perplexing: Why would migrants sleep on a freezing sidewalk rather than accept a bed and food in Brooklyn?

The migrants’ protest, spurred by their removal from the Watson Hotel, ignited red-hot political rhetoric from all angles.

And once again, the migrants found themselves caught in a political swirl.

But the noise obscured an important reality: The thousands of migrants who have arrived over the past months are growing increasingly frustrated and angry with life in New York.

In interviews with the Daily News before the encampment was cleared, migrants at the Watson said they feel they are being treated as political pawns, shuffled from place to place and fed empty promises, while politicians battle over funding and border policy.

Last year, a showdown between Mayor Eric Adams and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott came to a head as buses were sent from the southern border to NYC. Now, the influx of more than 43,000 mostly Latin American migrants has become a point of contention between Adams and President Joe Biden, as the mayor pressures the federal government for funds and resources to manage the crisis.


The standoff at the Watson Hotel stirred more controversy. The Adams administration sounded the alarm against misinformation and outside influences as cameras flocked, advocates lashed back and right-wing pundits sounded off.

But the migrants say their battle is not partisan. They say they want to work, find apartments and start new lives. Many of those at the Watson had been rehoused there after being placed at the now-shuttered Randall’s Island site. The prospect of being shipped to another remote location in Red Hook — far from transit, jobs and options — was a breaking point. The standoff outside of the hotel, migrants said, was a chance to be heard.

“We want to be treated as human beings … We are fighting to be able to work and get our lives together, to become independent,” said Ivan Pereira, a migrant from Venezuela, said as he stood outside the Watson this week. “This treatment, it isn’t right.”

Pereira is among the dozens of migrants who told the Daily News that the protest wasn’t simply about the transfer to the Red Hook facility — but about the hurdles they’ve faced in trying to create new lives for themselves in New York.


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