In response to the Newsday report that more than 2,000 Central American children have recently have settled on Long Island, immigrants, faith leaders, and advocates today joined together to call for compassion and due process.
The number of new arrivals comes as no surprise, as Long Island is the fifth largest Central American community in the U.S. As such, many children are coming here to reunite with family members, who can care for them best. The children, many of whom may only be here for a short time, are being easily absorbed into the community. Percentage wise on Long Island, they represent only one half of 1 percent of our immigrant population.
Immigrants and advocates called for all Long Islanders to recall that these children are fleeing extreme violence and seeking both safety and family reunification. Many communities across the country are already welcoming these children, and Long Island should be part of this trend.
“How we treat these children reflects our commitment to the values that define us as Americans,” said Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director, Long Island Wins. “We want to commend congressman Tim Bishop for seeing this situation as it is—a humanitarian issue. We need more politicians to step up and do the right thing by reflecting the values that define us as Americans. These children refugees deserve a fair and humane hearing, with the help of an attorney who can speak for them and a judge who decides each case individually. This reflects our American values of fairness, justice, and due process.”
“As people of faith we read in the gospel how Jesus welcomed the children to come to him for protection and care,” said Sister Margaret Smyth, OP, North Fork Spanish Apostolate. “We believe that we too must follow the actions of Jesus to welcome and care for these children, especially during this difficult time in their lives while they wait for their due process and reunification with family.”
Fernando Sosa, member of Make the Road New York, said, “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.”
“The children arriving here are being placed with their family members while they await their day in court,” said Patrick Young, program director, CARECEN. “Politicians should not seek to short circuit the American tradition of due process and fairness by demonizing these young people.”
“Buried underneath this debate is the simple fact that these are children who want to reconnect with their families. We are a nation of immigrants, and it is disheartening to see communities and elected officials turning their backs on the most vulnerable,” said Anita Halasz, executive director of Long Island Jobs with Justice.
“The health and human service organizations that HWCLI partners with will continue to protect the most at risk and vulnerable among us, including the children coming from Central America to rejoin their families here,” said Gwen O’Shea, president/CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island. “HWCLI thanks Congressman Bishop for speaking out about the humanitarian nature of this situation.”
“New York State has a long and rich history of welcoming and protecting newcomers fleeing violence and persecution,” said Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Now is not the time to use these unaccompanied children to score cheap political points. We should instead uphold our true American values and work to provide these children with the necessary resources so they can be future leaders and productive members of our society.”
These organizations are working with dozens more groups across Long Island to ensure a sensible and compassionate response to the immigrant children who have recently arrived in our region.