This is Part IV of Long Island Wins’ new series to help provide Long Islanders with accurate information on this humanitarian crisis.
Unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America are being resettled across the U.S., and regardless of what happens in Washington, it is local communities who must act as the moral compass of our nation.
Many American communities are openly and compassionately welcoming to these children. The importance of welcoming immigrants into communities cannot be understated. Welcoming communities are more prosperous, dynamic, and united than those that aren’t intentionally inclusive.
“Long term, this requires a comprehensive solution” that includes immigration reform, Long Island Congressman Tim Bishop said two weeks ago. “I believe we should be dealing with this as a humanitarian crisis as well as a crisis that has to do with protecting our borders… I mean, these are kids and I would like to think that we remain a country that will not turn its back on an 8-year-old kid or a 10-year-old kid.”
Bishop is not alone.
Many faith-based groups on Long Island are taking the lead in welcoming and caring for the children. MercyFirst in Syosset has been providing temporary shelter for children while they await reunification with their families.
Sister Margaret Smyth, OP, North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead, has been speaking at churches throughout the community to educate residents about the children, their situation, and their needs. As a result, there has been tremendous support from the community toward the more than 100 children who have been connected with family in the area. “The residents have been really super-wonderful,” she said.
Over the summer, Smyth said residents donated backpacks for the children to use at school, as well as over $1,000 in cash to help the families. “We even started in the summer time taking kids and starting ESL [classes] with them,” she added.
Many cities throughout the U.S. have also taken steps to welcome these children and invite them into their communities.
Denver offered to use its Family Crisis Center, a shelter used for children awaiting permanent placement through the city’s Department of Human Services, to care for Central American children. “In Denver, we care about kids,” said Mayor Michael Hancock, adding, “[W]e recognize that we are likely to have relatives in our community who will want to take in their young family members.”
“Every major faith tradition on the planet charges its followers to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated,” said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, offering to use two locations in the state to care for the children. “I don’t know what good there is in faith if we can’t, and won’t, turn to it in moments of human need.”
Mayor Ricardo Garcia of Edinburg, Texas, said, “I don’t see this as a crisis, I see it as a humanitarian issue. Here in this country, we’ve always embraced vulnerable immigrants. We don’t want to be demonized by a military presence; what we need is funding for the law enforcement agents we have down here to enforce our laws, and for legal protections for the children.”
The Long Island area ranks third in the country for receiving the largest number of children since the start of the year. Long Island has always been a welcoming community. This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate our welcoming nature by showing compassion, and keeping these children safe and protected.