Advocates set table for immigration reform
The table was set with rice, salad but no turkey, a way for immigrant advocates in Brentwood to say Wednesday their Thanksgiving Day will be incomplete without a reform deal in Congress allowing immigrants here illegally to live and work on the books while they earn citizenship.
The group of more than 30 people joined a spate of protests throughout the country as representatives go away for the holiday without delivering on the goods many immigrants seek.
Paola Bernal, an undocumented immigrant and mother of three who lives in Brentwood, said people in her situation can't erase fear from the back of their minds.
She cried as she remembered an aunt nabbed and deported to her native Colombia three years ago, leaving behind children and grandchildren.
"On our Thanksgiving table, there will be an empty chair," said Bernal, 34. "I am afraid the same could happen to me . . . and I thank God every day that I'm still here."
Advocates on the side of those immigrants are encouraged by this month's America's Voice -- an advocacy group -- poll results that show 8 of every 9 residents in the congressional district that includes Brentwood and Central Islip support a bill with a citizenship path. Those poll results affirm findings in a recent national survey that a majority favors reform.
"We want to demand a vote on comprehensive immigration reform," said Karina Claudio-Betancourt, an organizer with immigrant-advocacy group Make the Road New York.
Advocacy efforts have targeted both President Barack Obama, who supports a path to citizenship but has not delivered on a promise of reform, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who did not move the debate forward in his chamber.
The Senate passed a broad bill last summer that combined border security mandates, enforcement measures and relief for immigrants in various status categories.
"We think it has been too long. Our families have been waiting too long for comprehensive immigration reform," Claudio-Betancourt said. "Speaker Boehner is not permitting this vote in Congress because of his own greed, because he doesn't want to lose his speakership in Congress."
Boehner has said he will consider a piecemeal approach on the different elements of reform, but he has not disclosed when those bills will come to the floor.