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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.