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Long IslandNassau

LI group urges unity in protecting communities from hate, bias

Nora Bassett (R) speaks during a Townhall for

Nora Bassett (R) speaks during a Townhall for Unity at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau in Garden City, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

The people and protections most vulnerable under a Trump presidency were the focus of a Nassau Town Hall for Unity on Sunday, where organizers and attendees called for vigilance as the Jan. 20 inauguration date approaches.

The event, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau in Garden City and drawing at least 80 people, gave a voice to the communities that are fearful about how the president-elect’s actions once in office will effect them, said Angel Reyes, 27, of Glen Cove.

“The main thing right now is the uncertainty of what’s going to happen,” said Reyes, a member of Long Island Immigrant Students Advocates, one of the event’s organizing groups.

Whether the potential defunding of Planned Parenthood and threats to women’s reproductive rights, prejudice against the LGBTQ community, or threats to immigrant populations, organizers sought to bring resources and information to attendees.

The Town Hall also offered participants a safe place to share personal stories of discrimination and hate rhetoric that they’ve witnessed and experienced leading up to and after the lection, said Alejandra Sorto, an organizer for Long Island Civic Engagement Table, one of several groups behind the meeting.

“We’re all seeking the same thing: fighting for vulnerable groups on Long Island,” she said.

It’s also just the beginning. This is the second meeting that this group of organizations has hosted; the first was in Suffolk County on Nov. 20. These initial sessions are the groundwork for future meetings that will focus organizing residents to communicate their priorities to lawmakers, Sorto said.

“We want to follow up with a meeting where people can actually get involved and take action — including electoral organizing, including issue-based organizing, including lobbying, going to Albany to fight for our issues,” she said.

The event had attendees break into groups to discuss their own experiences in recent months. Residents shared stories of Muslim bias, employment bias, swastikas painted in public restrooms and other painful experiences. The various organizing community groups said they would offer support and assistance.

In Reyes’ case, he is one of millions of U.S. immigrants currently protected under an Obama policy that offered protection to people who entered the country before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to obtain a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he would repeal the policy, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, on day one of his presidency. But Trump has appeared to soften his stance without providing specifics or backing down from campaign trail repeal promises.

It’s this ever-shifting rhetoric that has added to confusion for Dreamers,” Reyes said.

“There’s a lot of fear and there’s a lot of panic going on with kids who are going to school that also have DACA,” Reyes said. “Your name, your address, all of your information is in the system. You also have the fear that they will come for you and just take you away. ”

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