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Massapequa marchers of many faiths call for DACA support

An interfaith march from the Grace Episcopal Church to Rep. Peter King's office in Massapequa Park called for Congress to restore protections for immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children. (Credit: Newsday/Ted Phillips)

An interfaith group of Christians, Jews and Muslims rallied in Massapequa Park Sunday in support of legislation to allow those brought illegally to the United States as children to remain in the country.

Long Island Jobs with Justice organized the march along with more than a dozen congregations and organizations. The procession, which began at the Grace Episcopal Church in Massapequa and ended in front of Rep. Peter King’s Massapequa Park office, drew about 150 people.

The marchers called on King (R-Seaford) to support a “clean Dream Act” that would restore protections under the Deferred Action for Children Arrivals (DACA) program that President Donald Trump rescinded in September.

“We want a clean Dream Act, we want a Dream Act that is not tied to more border enhancements and militarization in our local communities,” Anita Halasz, executive director of Long Island Jobs with Justice said to the marchers.

King, reached by phone after the march, said he supports DACA and would support whatever bill is finally produced in Congress through negotiation.

“They are basically innocent victims and they shouldn’t be deported,” King said. King said he supported immigration raids that targeted the MS-13 gang and tough border security but said these were separate issues from the Dream Act.

“If they’re in this country and they came in as a Dreamer and they have clean records, they should be allowed to stay,” King said. “ I just want to make sure there are no law enforcement loopholes in there.”

Trump has called on Congress to replace DACA, put in place by former President Barack Obama.

Episcopal Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said at the march that the church’s mission was to help the most vulnerable.

“When we leave room for those who add to the life of our communities, we are enhancing, not diminishing, the population of the people who live here on Long Island,” Provenzano said.

Francis Madi, manager of advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition, who said she herself is a DACA recipient originally from Venezuela, told the marchers that the rescinding of the program is “going to affect families, it’s going to break them apart, it’s going to criminalize our community.”

One of the marchers, Agnes Kelly, 83, a retired schoolteacher from Massapequa Park, said she wanted “our Dreamers to have a pathway to the American dream.”

“These children are our brothers and sisters,” Kelly said. “They’ve known no other country. They were babies when they came here.”

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