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The flow of migrants into New York City leads to protests and court challenges

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

New York, a city of immigrants, is debating immigration. Some 100,000 migrants have entered or been dropped off in New York City since early 2022. The people objecting to the sheer numbers include the mayor, Eric Adams. On Staten Island, which is part of the city, residents sued to shut down a place where some migrants found shelter. Here's NPR's Jasmine Garsd.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: The Italian American neighborhood of Arrochar doesn't usually sound like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Inaudible).

GARSD: Several Staten Island shelters have taken in migrants, but this one - at a former Catholic school - now housing 60 people hit a nerve. At one point, a loudspeaker was mounted and pointed at the shelter. It blasted this recorded message for 24 hours in several languages.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VITO FOSSELLA: This building is not safe for humans. The community wants you to go back to New York City. Immigrants are not safe here.

GARSD: Staten Island borough president Vito Fossella was among those who filed suit against New York City to shut the shelter down.

FOSSELLA: These ordinary folks wake up one day. They have, you know, migrants living next door to them, and we're just being told, tough luck. And what we've said is, Staten Island didn't cause this problem. Why are we obligated to solve the problem?

GARSD: Fossella says the city's budget can't handle taking care of so many migrants.

FOSSELLA: And I know there are folks who - you know, that are out there, say, well, New York City, voted for a right to shelter. Staten Island is different. Staten Island doesn't support these concepts.

GARSD: At a panini shop a few blocks from the shelter, Peter Monte agrees.

PETER MONTE: They're right behind the school. And you shouldn't be behind the school with the all-girls school. You know, and you got girls walking around, you know, in school. It's not right.

GARSD: According to police statistics, there's been no uptick in sex crimes in the area in the last month since the shelter opened.

In Port Richmond, a Hispanic neighborhood in Staten Island, the feeling is different.

MICHELLE MOLINA: (Speaking Spanish). It's painful.

GARSD: Michelle Molina is the executive director of El Centro del Inmigrante, a nonprofit that assists immigrants. She comes from a Uruguayan family. She says the rhetoric is upsetting. She's been hearing concerns throughout the community.

MOLINA: Some people are starting to feel threatened in a way because, as we know, hateful remarks and hateful approaches also end in hate crimes.

GARSD: In the last week, it got even more heated. A group of protesters directed their ire at a bus carrying asylum-seekers on to Staten Island. Ten protesters were taken into custody.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Not tonight. Not tonight.

GARSD: By Tuesday, a Staten Island Supreme Court judge ruled that migrants have to vacate the shelter. Just outside, a handful of neighbors clapped for borough president Vito Fossella.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FOSSELLA: Thank you very much.

GARSD: But New York City is appealing the order to vacate the shelter, which means for now, those 60 people living inside can stay.

Jasmine Garsd, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOGA AT THE DISCO'S "WOOLLEN POTATO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.