The Unseen NYC Migrant Crisis

Take a walk around East 45th Street in Midtown Manhattan, and you’ll see the faces of New York City’s newest residents, bustling calmly in and out of the Roosevelt Hotel – now dubbed the city’s main asylum intake center, or the “new Ellis Island.” On a tranquil afternoon in late September, families, some who had been there for days and others for months, were seeking respite and guidance in their new city. Children played on the sidewalks, adults engaged in conversation, and families prepared to move to different shelters across the city. Despite the turmoil, one mother, a recent arrival, expressed her relief at having her child quickly enrolled in the school system, a testament to the assistance the city has been providing.

This calm scene, however, starkly contrasts the chaotic visuals from a few weeks ago, with countless individuals camping outside the packed hotel, awaiting processing. It also debunks the dramatic narrative of an “invasion” or “national emergency” touted by politicians and anti-migrant protesters across NYC’s boroughs. Contrary to these divisive narratives, these migrants are diligently seeking lawful asylum, an effort even the sternest anti-immigration advocates should respect.

Yes, the influx of more than 116,000 people since spring 2022 poses challenges to any city’s infrastructure or budget, even a city as affluent as New York. But amidst the national discourse, quick to vilify all migration, NYC’s migrants find themselves wrongfully scapegoated. Despite the city’s longstanding tradition of welcoming and sheltering newcomers, politically motivated rhetoric increasingly pits citizens and residents against these migrants. With Mayor Eric Adams claiming migrants will “destroy” the city, it is not hard to see how divisive sentiments can fester.

However, the reality outside the Roosevelt Hotel doesn’t lie. The humanity displayed by the migrants is palpable, in sharp contradiction to the dehumanizing xenophobic portrayals. In Staten Island, protesters were arrested for blocking a bus carrying migrants to a shelter, and calls for secession have disturbingly resurfaced. One leading protester questioned why people like him were barred from the hotel, seemingly oblivious to the struggles of the exhausted families inside, who have escaped hardships and violence, seeking to rebuild their lives.

As I stood outside the hotel, the scene unfolded beyond the hostile rhetoric, revealing families, not unlike those who journeyed through Ellis Island, filled with hope and resilience, yearning for a fresh start on American soil. This is the overlooked NYC migrant narrative, the story beyond the hype and the hate, a story rooted in humanity and the shared dream of a better life, a dream that transcends divisive politics and deserves our unwavering support.