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NYIC Long island Roundtable Highlights Stress Put on Immigrants by Trump Administration

On Wednesday morning more than three dozen Long Island immigrant rights groups met in the library of the Episcopal Seminary in Garden City to discuss what the priorities of the movement are in the region. The roundtable was convened by Francis Madi of the New York Immigration Coalition and over the next three hours the participants came up with an agenda for action.

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) is a statewide organization, and Long Island has been a hotbed for immigrant activism for years. The results of the discussions today will be brought to the Coalition’s board and staff to help inform the NYIC’s work over the coming year. The concerns of the local groups will be addressed by the NYIC in Albany and Washington.

While Long Island is home to 526,000 immigrants, it is often overlooked in discussions of immigrant communities. The roundtable gave local leaders a chance to give voice to the challenges facing immigrants in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Many of the issues that were raised in Garden City are common to immigrants around the country. The Trump administration has ushered in a growing climate of hatred against immigrants. Fear is on the rise as ICE arrests have increased. Discrimination is up and progress is down. This is the same everywhere.

The participants also brought up issues of particular interest to Long Islanders. For example, many Long Islanders are Central Americans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Their status is up for renewal in the next eight months. An announcement by Homeland Security that Haitian TPS will likely end has spread fear. The representatives at the meeting said that if TPS is revoked, not only will many families face deportation, but local economies are likely to suffer. The group resolved to fight for an extension of TPS by highlighting the human and financial impact of the deportation of 10,000-20,000 Central Americans. Republican Congressman Peter King will be a focus of activism. 

Another issue raised by the leaders was the inaccessibility of many local government services to undocumented people. Since many villages require proof of residence to use village parks and pools, people without documents often can’t prove that they live in the community. This cuts them off from everything from libraries to recreational facilities.

Transportation was also raised as a particularly challenging part of Long Island life. It is difficult to get around the Island without a drivers’ license. While Nassau County has a relatively good bus system, Suffolk has huge gaps in public transportation coverage. This limit on mobility also limits where immigrants can look for work and where they can live.

Finally, the rising violence from the street gang MS-13 was also discussed. Immigrants are afraid of the gang, as well as of ICE initiatives in Suffolk that are ostensively designed to counter gang violence. Young Latinos are being racially profiled as gang members and harassed by the police. The publicity surrounding the gang has called into question the Unaccompanied Child program that has resettled 8,500 Central American young people to Long Island.As Suffolk became the focus of national media attention, the safety of the child refugees was put at risk. 

By the end of the meeting, many organizations had agreed to work together to pool resources to tackle the issues that they had identified. The NYIC staff took the priorities of the local groups back to the Coalition's leadership to explore ways in which the NYIC can help to develop effective responses. 

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