Long Island immigrants, faith leaders, and advocates spoke out late last week to call for compassion and due process for the 2,200 unaccompanied children arriving in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
More than 2,200 unaccompanied children have been sent to live in homes on Long Island, more than other places in the tri-state area according to Newsday.
It was reported 1,181 children went to live in Suffolk and 1,096 in Nassau, and that the policy had angered some residents and elected officials.
“I share the overwhelming frustration of my constituents and urge residents to join me in contacting their federal officials,” said Edward Mangano, Nassau county executive.
Make the Road New York said the new arrivals were no surprise, as Long Island is the fifth largest Central American community the U.S., and many of the children are coming to reunite with family members. The children represent only one half of one percent of the local immigrant population.
“This is a humanitarian situation that requires a compassionate response. We have to take responsibility and make sure that the children are protected and that their rights are respected. And we have to make sure that we fix our broken immigration system with real immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship, once and for all,” said Fernando Sosa of Make the Road New York.
Joining the Long Island branch of Make the Road New York were advocates from the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, CARECEN, and Long Island Jobs with Justice.
Children are placed with family members while they await their day in immigration court. Many of the children are probably going to be able to claim refugee status, as many are fleeing gangs and sexual violence in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
“How we treat these children reflects our commitment to the values that define us as Americans,” said Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins. “We want to commend Congressman Tim Bishop for seeing this situation for what it is: a humanitarian issue. We need more politicians to step up and do the right thing by reflecting the values that we define us Americans. These child refugees deserve a fair and humane hearing, with the help of an attorney who speaks for them and a judge who decides each case individually. This reflects our American values of fairness, justice, and due process.”
Make the Road New York was part of a coalition of advocates demanding that Ed Mangano keep his promise for language access requirements for all residents. Executive Orders 67 and 72, which Mangano signed into law last year, requires language access in the six most commonly spoken languages besides English for official documents and translators. This should have been available for residents by July 30, but most agencies are far from compliant.
A report on five county agencies on translation services for oral interpretation, agency plan implementation and written translation for documents and websites show failing grades for the Departments of Social Services, Health, Human Services, Police and Probation.
“Essential information, including crisis services for people needing mental health treatment, or emergency services to prevent foreclosure or eviction is only available in English,” said Cheryl Keshner, a paralegal at the Empire Justice Center.
Keshner, who is also a member of the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition, said the coalition has offered to help with implementation of these services. “We have not been consulted, we have not received any response to our concerns … and we have not seen any progress at all.”