Tuesday’s events at the Suffolk County legislature were an illustration of the changing conversation about immigration on eastern Long Island. Nearly three dozen supporters of the newly arrived Central American child refugees rallied outside the legislature to call for the county to actively address the needs of the children. Several of those present carried signs that read “Stop the Hate” in anticipation of a counter-rally by anti-immigrant activists. No counter-protesters showed up, but Legislator Monica Martinez did stop by to speak out for the children.
An hour later, Rev. Charles Coverdale, Maryann Slutsky of Long Island Wins, and I testified in front of the legislature about what could be done to help ease the children’s transition to life on Long Island. Most of the audience stood up behind us throughout our talks. Even people who were in the legislative chamber on other matters applauded our suggestion. When I finished my own presentation, I was thanked by Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory.
That afternoon, News12 played segments of our remarks over and over again without feeling the need to put on the extravagant ravings of anti-immigrant extremists.
Everything about the events of Tuesday morning spoke of change. Scapegoating and hatred were not on display. A willingness by Suffolk government to listen was. Maryann reminded the legislature that the county has been a forward-looking leader in the past. Hopefully it is becoming so again.