Long Islanders took a bus from Farmingville to Washington, D.C., for an immigrant-rights rally on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. There are two focuses, said Francis Modi, manager of advocacy for the Manhattan-based New York Immigration Coalition, which is organizing buses headed from across New York State to the event. One is to pass the Dream Act, which would provide an eventual path to citizenship for many immigrants — called “Dreamers” — who were brought to the United States illegally as children. That includes about 800,000 young people who have temporary protection from deportation under an Obama administration program that President Donald Trump has vowed to end. The other is to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from 10 countries that have suffered natural disasters, wars or other catastrophes. About 320,000 people currently have TPS, including 195,000 from El Salvador, according to the Pew Research Center. The Trump administration must decide whether to extend the Salvadoran TPS by Jan. 8. Last month, it announced an end to TPS for Haiti and Nicaragua.
New Yorkers are among the thousands listening as an immigrant-rights rally begins in Washington, D.C.
Erika Brooks, 36, of Ronkonkoma, said there is widespread fear among immigrants that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama administration program that protects about 800,000 young immigrants from deportation, will end. "I have family, friends, neighbors, colleagues who are being protected by both programs, and losing them means they'll be separated from their families and lose it all," said Brooks, an immigrant from Mexico. "When I think of DACA and TPS, I think of them." Brooks is now a U.S. citizen but had lived in the United States illegally for seven years and said she knows how difficult it is to live with uncertainty about your future. Her son, Joseph, 10, is with her on the bus. "If I can help others stay in this country, then I want to do that," he said.
For Elida Alfaro, 31, of Brentwood, the demonstrators' call for the Trump administration to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS), is personal. Her 54-year-old mother, a Salvadoran immigrant, has TPS and likely would have to leave the United States if TPS ends. "It would be difficult, with all the years she's spent in this country," Alfaro said, referring to the 24 years her mom has lived in the United States. "I don't want her to be separated from me or her grandchildren. She's worked for many years here. It would be unjust."
Carlos Reyes, 40, a Salvadoran immigrant who lives in Central Islip, has had TPS since 2001. He came to the United States illegally in 1994. TPS allowed him to obtain a good union job driving buses that transport people with disabilities. He's worried about losing everything if TPS for Salvadorans expires. "Without TPS I'll be undocumented," he said. "I'll have no permit for work. I'd have no [driver's] license. All the things we're allowed to do we won't be allowed to do." Reyes said he and others are the type of immigrants conservatives say they want. "They always say people who are hard-working and pay taxes should stay here," he said. "TPS is a good example of that. Why don't they give us an opportunity now? Those of us with TPS are here just working, contributing to this country."
The 18 people on the bus from Farmingville to Washington, D.C., gathered at a Lutheran church near the capital with hundreds of people who arrived on other buses from across New York State.