Advocates and faith leaders speak out about fear in the immigrant community over ICE’s tactic

Rumors and raids in other parts of the country have had a crippling effect in the immigrant community on Long Island. Photo: LIWins.

Advocates, community members and faith leaders denounced the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) nationwide raids targeting Central American families for deportation. They called on the Obama’s administration to cease intimidating tactics employed by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the latest blitz of enforcement operations during the holidays, and called upon Long Island elected officials to oppose these raids that are terrorizing Long Island’s Latino community, which ranks among the top three receiving communities for recently arrived Central American refugees.

On January 2nd, the DHS and ICE announced they would begin raids in different parts of the country targeting Central American refugee parents and children who have arrived in the US since January 2014 and have since received a final order of deportation. This could affect approximately 100,000 families nationwide, many of them on Long Island.

Following the first documented reports of these raids in Georgia on Saturday January 2nd, immigrant communities across Long Island fell into a state of panic as rumors fueled by fear appeared on social media and other networks that Long Island was a target of ICE raids over the holiday weekend. Long Island advocates have followed the situation closely and have launched community education efforts to inform the immigrant community of their rights and connect concerned families with legal counsel.

Advocates said those rumors are false and such raids have not happened on Long Island or in New York. However they have confirmed with ICE that they are continuing their regular operations. Those rumors and the raids in other parts of the country have had a crippling effect in the immigrant community on Long Island. There have been reports of people who are not showing up to work and children who are not going to school, because they are afraid of the raids.
“Many of the individuals targeted by DHS are Central American parents and children who fled violence and terror in their home countries, and made the difficult journey to our nation because it was the only way to protect them and their families. Throughout America’s History, our country has been a safe haven for those seeking asylum. We should not turn our backs on these women and children or attempt to deter them in their moment of greatest need,” said Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, Executive Director for Long Island Wins.

“This is a country of immigrants where all of us arrived from different places, often as refugees of war and economic crisis, risking our lives. The announcement of these raids by the Administration crushed the spirit of the holidays in immigrant communities across Long Island and put us in a state of terror. We demand that this attack on our community with raids and inhumane tactics employed by ICE and President Obama be stopped immediately,” said Janet Farfan, long time resident and voter in Bay Shore, and a community leader of Make The Road New York.

“The children the Obama administration is trying to deport are the very boys and girls who said “no” to the gangs. Their brave decisions put their lives in danger and forced them to flee. We cannot return them to their persecutors,” said Pat Young, Program Director for CARECEN (Central American Refugee Center).

“Since the New Year started, ICE has reportedly detained over 121 people, including children as young as 4. Although these raids did not happen on Long Island, a climate of fear has started to spread. Many students in our school districts are too scared to go to school, due to fear of deportations, or that their parents will be deported when they get home. We urge our Long Island senators to do their part in combating this attack against the immigrant community by opposing these raids and all anti-immigrant legislation,” said Victoria Daza, organizer for Long Island Jobs with Justice.

Martha Maffei, Executive Director for SEPA Mujer stated, “Latino children need our advocacy and we need to be a voice for them and for their families. We need to say no to government policies that terrorize innocent children and teenagers and that threaten them with parental abandonment and rejection on a daily basis.”

“It is unconscionable to start the New Year off with yet even more inhumane policies that tear families apart and deport mothers and children back to the countries that have the highest rates of gang violence and murder in the world. It is outrageous that during the first weekend of January, DHS has already detained 121 individuals across the country,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “With the news of the ICE raids, our communities are understandably terrified and there are a lot of rumors of ICE sightings.  In this time of great concern, we urge our communities in New York to avoid creating panic, learn your rights, stay informed, seek legal support now if you believe you are at risk, and prepare for the possibilities of any raids. We want to reiterate at this present moment the raids associated with the national news that ICE is rounding up Central Americans have not occurred in New York State. We demand that DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson reverse course on these unjust deportations immediately and we call on President Obama to cease this unacceptable practice.”

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