The NYPD tightens security at the Staten Island refugee center as protests rock the neighborhood

Patrol cars and barricades surrounded a controversial Staten Island Catholic school turned into a migrant shelter on Sunday – police said they were preparing for a rally on Monday that more than 2,000 protesters could attend.

Many protesters outside the former St John Villa Academy in Arrochar have claimed they are not anti-immigrants, just concerned about the risk of crime and angry at city officials for sending migrants into their neighborhoods without warning.

“The government needs to stop doing this in secret to our communities and stop lying about it when they’re called out,” said Scott Herkert, 53, who has lived next door to the school for 22 years, and the dozen or so protesters outside belonged Sunday. “It’s a total disruption to my life.”

But on Sunday, there were times when the Landis Avenue gathering had a decidedly anti-immigrant bias — as did several protests that took place at the same location last week.

Demonstrators hold a flag
Some protesters outside a former Staten Island school dormitory say they are concerned about crime.
Steve White for NY Post

Anti-immigration protesters hold up signs.
The protesters say they are not against immigration, but local officials have kept them in the dark with their complaints about who is being sent to their neighborhoods.
Steve White for NY Post

Concert speakers pointing at the shelter blared out country songs like Toby Keith’s “Stays in Mexico” on Sunday, while some protesters yelled, “You’re not welcome here!”

“Attention, all illegal aliens! Please stay in your branch! If you’re caught out of your sector, a citizen’s arrest will be made,” Peter DiMiceli, a 49-year-old local contractor, yelled through a bullhorn.

“You are not welcome here! You are trespassing! Your enemies of the state!” he continued. “We, the people of Staten Island, say: Not now, not never!”

According to the police, only about 21 migrants were in the shelter on Sunday, although 300 people are being taken care of.

An immigrant with his child on his shoulders.
Tens of thousands of migrants have been flooding New York for months.
Seth Gottfried for NY Post

More than 1,000 protesters flooded the Staten Island neighborhood on Friday, and police sources say they expect more than double that number on Monday.

That worries some officials, who told the Post protesters were so excited Friday night they threatened to storm the facility.

“We’re scared — we don’t know what can happen,” said Wulberto Fernandez, a 30-year-old Venezuelan migrant who snuck away from the facility for a few minutes with his wife, 26-year-old Alejandra Raaz.

“I’m afraid they will attack and hit us,” added Fernandez, who said he and his wife left their two young daughters and son to trek through the jungle for 28 days before reaching Mexico and then Texas and then bused to New Mexico York.

Former mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa rallies the protesters.
Former mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa rallies the protesters.
Steve White for NY Post

His wife said, “They yell at night, things like, ‘All immigrants, get out of here!’

“We feel bad about it. We know we are not wanted here.”

The couple said they much prefer their last home, an Econo Lodge in Midtown Manhattan.

They had their own room there. In the former school, they sleep in an auditorium lined with cots.

When asked why they came to Staten Island, the two said they had no choice.

Anti-immigration protesters.
Some protesters shouted for the migrants to leave, after which one asylum seeker said: “We’re sorry – we know we’re not welcome here.”
Steve White for NY Post

An anti-immigration sign.
According to police sources, protesters had discussed storming the former school on Friday.
Steve White for NY Post

When asked where they would like to go, Wulberto replied, “Anywhere? … If the Lord will permit.”

Protester Scott LoBaido, a 58-year-old activist artist, said he plans to be on the streets every night “until we evict these people.”

“There are other places they can go! Not in this area!” said LoBaido. “That place is Ground Zero, a middle-class neighborhood with four schools just a few steps away. Why would you send them here? They have Rikers with all these nice facilities, all empty, all ready to go. Why isn’t that happening?”

More than 1,000 Staten Island residents attended a rally last Wednesday to protest the opening of a migrant shelter at St. John Villa Academy.
More than 1,000 people came to a rally on Wednesday to protest the opening of a migrant shelter at the former St. John Villa Academy.
Steve White for NY Post

Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis at a protest rally against a migrant shelter at St. John Villa Academy on Wednesday.
Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis speaks at Wednesday’s protest rally.
Steve White for NY Post

Staten Island officials have been trying for weeks to bar migrants from entering the facility. When that failed, five politicians urged authorities to impose an 11 p.m. night curfew for the migrants, thousands of whom have flooded New York City every week since the spring of 2022.

The influx of migrants into the city has forced local officials to look for makeshift shelters and accommodate the arriving families in hotels.

According to officials, nearly 60,000 migrants are currently in the city’s custody.


JACLYN DIAZ is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. JACLYN DIAZ joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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