A small crowd marched through the Village of Hempstead Thursday calling for a stop to deportations that they say break up families and for enactment of laws granting millions legal status.
The noon demonstration, planned to coincide with International Workers' Day, was in its eighth year but drew about 40 people as compared with hundreds in previous marches. They chanted mostly in Spanish as they walked a half mile on Front Street, speaking for immigrants in the United States illegally.
"President [Barack] Obama has deceived us because when he was re-elected he promised us immigration reform, and what we've had is more deportations," said Andrés Zaldivar, 54, an organizer with the Comité de Inmigrantes de Long Island, a coalition of Hispanic groups.
Leading the march were the wife, 4-year-old son and mother of Wilfredis Ayala, a 28-year-old Long Island immigrant from El Salvador detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Elizabeth, N.J. He has been in federal custody since January.
Ayala, a day laborer, was arrested in January for trespassing while using a shortcut to walk home in Inwood. He was handed off to the federal agency due to a 2005 immigration court order to leave, said his wife, Wendy Urbina, 28.
Family and local advocates say the case exemplifies aggressive deportation policies.
"We have demonstrated that we are a hardworking family and we have not done anything criminal," Urbina said in Spanish. "We want them to give him an opportunity to stay . . . continue our normal life."
ICE spokesman Vincent Picard said he couldn't comment on the case, but added that a person defying an immigration court departure order is considered a fugitive.A separate vigil Thursday night in Hempstead focused on calling for New York to address immigrants' needs on its own.
"We want to see in-state solutions . . . like state-issued IDs, passage of the New York State Dream Act and a halt to detentions," said Alex Gomez, of the labor-advocacy group, La Fuente. "It's the right time to move forward at the state level and be a national model."