Long Island advocates denounced Friday a national push to deport Central American immigrants in the country illegally as “inhumane and intimidating.”
Though the operation has not reached Long Island, the threat of deportation coming from the Obama administration has had “a crippling effect in immigrant communities” as people here fearing deportation stay home, said Walter Barrientos, Long Island coordinator of advocacy group Make the Road New York.
Advocates said the impact is hardest on families with children without legal status. Mothers and children fleeing rampant crime, poverty and drug-fueled gang violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have made up the bulk of those crossing the border in violation of immigration law over the past few years, advocates said.
Many immigrants from those countries have come to Long Island, where they have relatives and friends.
Patrick Young, program director of the Central American Refugee Center in Hempstead and Brentwood, said those migrants should be treated as refugees, just like those fleeing war in Syria who have gone to European nations.
“Make no mistake about it, the people being rounded up around the United States, arrested, thrown into jail and then within a day transported from their homes . . . to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are mothers and their children,” Young said during the rally at Christ Episcopal Church in Brentwood. “The United States must stop this inhumane policy.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed earlier this week it had detained 121 immigrants in the country illegally, primarily in Southern states.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as Nassau and Suffolk police departments and state troopers denied being part of any local raids as had been rumored last weekend on Long Island.
Area advocates objected to the Obama administration’s policy nonetheless.
Enforcement proponents also have been critical of the administration, but for a different reason. They just don’t think the enforcement push will amount to much.
“I think it’s too much hysteria on something that’s not going to happen,” said Barrett Psareas, vice president of the Nassau County Civic Association, adding the deportations so far have been “very little.”
“I don’t understand” the administration, he said. “Are they trying to stoke the fire from both ends? I mean, if they are, they are doing a good job at it.”