NEW YORK (NewsNation) — It has been three days since some migrants in New York City started resisting an effort by the mayor to relocate them out of a hotel and into a shelter, instead opting to sleep on the sidewalk.
But now, migrants are up against some of the coldest nights of the winter season so far and it’s only going to get worse as the week goes on.
On Monday, police and workers with the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs reached a deal with the men, allowing them to sleep on the sidewalk but not allowing them to go back inside the Watson Hotel where they had been staying.
That begs the question of whether the migrants, most of whom came from Venezuela, will be able to manage living in the freezing cold.
City officials said this was the migrants’ choice because they could be staying in a warm place with hot meals and a place to use the bathroom.
But the migrant men standing their ground said they have no interest in going to the Brooklyn cruise terminal where the city has set up a facility.
On Sunday, city officials moved male migrants out of the Watson Hotel to make room for migrant families with women and children. Last week, Mayor Eric Adams announced the city plans to move groups of asylum-seekers from the Watson Hotel in Hell’s Kitchen to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.
Representatives said the city has maxed out hotel spaces for migrants so it had to make changes. The men were taken to the Brooklyn cruise terminal where the city has set up one thousand cots.
Many are refusing to go to the shelter, calling the new accommodations “inhumane.” They’ve shared videos that show side-by-side cots and claim there are only four bathrooms for all 1,000 of them. They also report the building lacks heat and water.
Some have even compared the location to a prison camp or detention center — a claim city officials called ridiculous.
The city said the location is temperature-controlled, food is provided and the migrants can receive free bus and ferry passes to take them where they would like to go.
“The initial reports that asylum seekers heard was that we were setting up detention centers,” Manuel Castro, the commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, said. “Again, no one is being detained or forcefully moved. They have the choice to go to a regular homeless services system.”
City officials were able to convince some of the men who had been staying at the hotel that the Brooklyn location is safe, so they boarded city buses and took the nearly 45-minute ride to the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.
Many of the men who did go to the Brooklyn shelter returned almost immediately, saying they would rather stay on the streets than in the shelter.
“The conditions are so bad we have to cross the street to take a shower,” Labrador, a migrant who declined to give his first name, said. “We need to come back to our beds, which are all together like a jail.”
Labrador was among the 1,000 mostly male migrants who have been staying at the Watson Hotel for weeks. He came to America 10 months ago from Venezuela and was staying at an apartment he could not afford in Brooklyn.
A city official also said on Tuesday the plan was never to have the men stay there long-term, and they made that clear to the men, so officials are a little surprised by the strong resistance to leave.
Democrat Shana Hanif, a New York City council member, said the migrants are concerned that once they’re all gathered inside the Brooklyn facility that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will show up and arrest them all.
In their minds, they believe they’re being detained for arrest and deportation, but the city said that isn’t true.
More than 42,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in New York City since last spring, and the mayor’s office says the city has surpassed its moral obligations to provide shelter, food, health care and other services.
They said the facilities at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will provide the same services as every other humanitarian relief center in the city.