It’s no surprise that a main actor from the ugly demonstrations protesting the welcoming of migrant families to New York City in recent weeks is Curtis Sliwa, a failed Republican mayoral candidate and Guardian Angels leader who’d already spent the spring and early summer ranting about migrant arrivals, CNN reported in June. This guy has been described as an “unapologetic racist,” including faking a Mexican accent during a 2011 radio show co-hosted by a Latino reporter.
He’s also got a decades-long history of attracting New York media to himself – and is doing it again by attacking migrants in a city that was built, literally and figuratively, by immigrants.
During one anti-immigrant demonstration last week protesting an agreement by New York and the Biden administration to use Floyd Bennett Field as a Humanitarian Emergency Relief and Response Center, Sliwa falsey “described asylum-seekers as ‘illegal aliens’ whose presence is destroying neighborhoods,” City & State New York reported. While obvious, it bears repeating that by definition the asylum seekers that Sliwa is demagoguing are inside the country legally as they proceed through their arduous asylum claims.
The outlet reports that some audience members held “Secure our Border” signs, despite the fact that the border has never been more well-funded and harder to cross without detection. The sign messaging in reality fuels the false “open border” narrative continuously pushed by lawmakers and political candidates who oppose any efforts to update our broken immigration system.
But these xenophobic protests turned violent later that week, when anti-immigrant demonstrators gathered outside Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence. “Authorities had earlier warned protesters not to cross barriers set up by police, warning that they would be subject to arrest if they did so—a warning that Sliwa did not heed,” The Daily Beast reported.
In an earlier video, Sliwa led the crowds in chants of “migrants to the back of the line!” before saying that migrants would be moved into local communities “over our dead bodies.” Sliwa has also promoted the despicable protests outside a temporary shelter on Staten Island, where locals – some waving American flags – chanted “go home!” and made obscene gestures at migrants who’d been transported to the site by local officials.
A migrant is taunted while looking out at protesters from the window… obscene gestures and language… she eventually closes the blinds. pic.twitter.com/kwbjBiq95e
— Henry Rosoff (@HenryRosoff) August 25, 2023
Silwa called the protestors screaming at asylum-seekers “valiant,” and has framed the welcoming of migrants as a “battle.” This dangerous rhetoric only feeds the false narrative pushed by anti-immigrant lawmakers that asylum-seekers are somehow an “invasion,” and that a war must be waged against them.
Meanwhile, his rally chants to make Mayor Eric Adams a one-term official make it clear that he’s not interested in immigration solutions, he’s a despicable actor seeking retribution against a political foe. In a further video, Sliwa plainly states that he’s seeking to challenge Adams and run in the next mayoral election. To do that, he’s cynically whipping up local communities into a frenzy over vulnerable men, women, and children seeking new lives here.
Silwa probably isn’t the best “public safety” messenger here in the first place. He’s a serial liar, previously admitting that “several of his group’s crime-fighting exploits were faked to garner publicity for the Guardian Angels,” The New York Times reported. Besides, study after study has shown that immigrants are less likely than U.S.-born Americans to commit crime.
But despite the ugly visuals of these protests, they don’t reflect the views of most Americans. By a 68-27% margin, Americans think immigration is a “good thing” rather than a “bad thing” for the country, recent Gallup polling found. Trendlines have, in fact, shown that Americans are growing increasingly pro-immigrant over time. Yes, there’s been some contention between the Biden administration and local officials about migrant arrivals, but we as a nation have the resources to treat people humanely. There’s Sliwa’s way, and then there’s a better way. The ugly actors may be loud. But they don’t represent the views of the vast majority of Americans.