With 526,000 immigrants, Long Island has the largest suburban immigrant population in the United States. We have more immigrants than Boston, Philadelphia, or San Francisco. One-in-six Long Islanders was born outside the United States.
The inauguration of Donald Trump has turned the world Long Island immigrants inhabit upside down. Arrests by ICE have risen by 30%. Arrests of immigrants without a criminal history have doubled. Discussions in Washington have left those immigrants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protective Status (TPS) worried that their legal status may soon be withdrawn. Refugee children from Central America are being subjected to ICE child abuse.
The legal immigration process has been brought to a near stand-still by an administration that actively discourages non-white immigrants from coming here.
Hatred against Long Island Latinos and Muslims is at an all-time high and is encouraged by those in the highest positions of power. If your immigrant group is not currently on the list of targets of hate, just wait.
Real violence against young immigrants by MS-13 is being used by the President and Attorney General to torment the victims of the violence and their families.
This summary of disasters needs to be broken down and put into contest.
DACA for DREAMers and the TPS programs for Haitians, Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans may begin to close as end as September of this year. Combined, these programs provide work authorization for 15,000-25,000 Long Islanders. All of them have been here for at least ten years, and many have been in legal status since 2000 or earlier. These are higher than average earners and they are tax payers. Many of them own homes and some own businesses.
If the DACA and TPS programs are ended, 7% of Long Island’s immigrants with legal status will suddenly become undocumented immigrants. Nearly all of these immigrants have families. When they lose their status and are deported, the economic underpinnings of many villages will be greatly reduced. The ripples may drown some downtowns.
Other legal immigrants are also suffering. In a change that only immigration lawyers are aware of, many application forms for legal immigration have become more complicated under Trump. Paperwork requirements have multiplied, and every application seems to be met with demands from Trump’s Immigration Service for more and more documentation. Families are kept apart as formerly predictable processes have become an exercise in Trumpian obstruction. These changes make the application process more expensive and discourage immigrants from applying for citizenship and permanent residence.
Long Island’s refugee children, the so-called Unaccompanied Minors, have become the particular focus of Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. The Trump administration has exploited killings by MS-13 to brand all of the children from Central America who have arrived in recent years as dangerous potential gang members. ICE is targeting the most vulnerable, not the most dangerous, immigrants.
ICE raids directed against the children, their parents, and others, have driven tens of thousands of immigrants further underground. Schools report increased absences when ICE is rumored to be on the streets. The disruption in immigrant neighborhoods is palpable.
The quality of life for Long Island immigrants is in serious decline and that can only hurt the whole community.