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Faith leaders speak on Staten Island, reject hateful rhetoric on asylum seekers crisis

Staten Island faith leaders reject hateful rhetoric on asylum seekers crisis
Staten Island faith leaders reject hateful rhetoric on asylum seekers crisis 02:14

NEW YORK -- On Wednesday night, Mayor Eric Adams said he doesn't see an end to the asylum seeker problem and that the issue would destroy New York City.

He made those remarks at a town hall meeting on the Upper West Side, and some are not pleased with his choice of words.

CBS New York went to a rally on Thursday on Staten Island.

READ MOREMayor Eric Adams says asylum seeker crisis "will destroy New York City"

After numerous rallies in the borough protesting asylum seekers staying at the former St. John Villa Academy, local faith leaders joined voices counteracting what they call hateful rhetoric and reminded people of what they say is the golden rule.

"We are to treat these neighbors with the same compassion that we would wish to be shown if we were in their shoes," said the Rev. Karen Pershing, the co-chair of Staten Island Inter-Religious Leadership.

"How many of us had parents, grandparents or great grandparents that were born somewhere outside this country?" added the Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York.

"Please do not blame asylum seekers for fleeing their countries to our border," added Michelle Moline, executive director of El Centro Del Immigrante.

READ MOREStaten Island borough president concerned some children of asylum seekers may not be vaccinated in time for new school year

Not far behind them were police and demonstrators. One woman said she has been out every day protesting the shelter.

"Because if we don't stop it it's gonna spread. It's gonna get worse and worse," Liz Andre said.

On Wednesday night, Mayor Adams expressed his frustration at a town hall meeting, noting that 110,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since April 2022.

"Month after month, I stood up and I said this is going to come to a neighborhood near you," Adams said.

READ MOREFamilies living in New York City shelters being relocated to make room for incoming asylum seekers

He again blamed a lack of federal support and Southern states busing migrants to the Big Apple, noting the financial burden and issue of space.

"I don't see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City," the mayor said.

The Legal Aid Society called Adams' remarks, "reckless and unproductive fear-mongering," adding the comments "dehumanize and villainize people who fled unimaginable situations in their home countries."

"These individuals are looking to support themselves," said Dr. Elaine Wood, of Hayman-Woodward Immigration Law Firm LLP. "I think if we could move forward with some work permits or designate more countries under temporary protected status and allow for some work permits, I think that people would be able to contribute to the labor market."

READ MOREMayor Adams leads rally calling on Biden administration to help New York City with influx of asylum seekers

Staten Island's faith leaders are calling on elected officials to do more.

"I don't think we're seeing collaboration at this juncture," said the Rev. Dr. Demetrius Carolina, pastor of First Central Baptist Church and executive direction of Central Family Life Center. "This immediate problem can be addressed in a very logical and sensible manner."

They're also asking community members not to jeer at asylum seekers entering the shelters.

"We must stand for what America is -- the last, best hope of human kind, and that's all of us," Rabbi Judah Newberger said.

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