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May Day marchers on LI say immigration policies sow fear

Scores of immigrants upset about the Trump administration's push for immigration enforcement marched on Monday, May 1, 2017, in Brentwood and at the Nassau County Executive Building in Mineola, echoing May Day demonstrations across the country. (Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa, Thomas A. Ferrara)

Scores of immigrants upset about the Trump administration’s push for immigration enforcement marched Monday in Brentwood and Mineola, echoing May Day demonstrations across the country.

About 80 people walked roughly a mile along Suffolk Avenue and toward Ross Park in Brentwood, chanting for immigrants’ rights and against deportation policies that are sowing fear in their communities.

“We know that immigrants are being scapegoated,” said Walter Barrientos, Long Island organizer for the immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York, told the crowd. “We know that workers are being scapegoated when in reality it is corporations . . . that are changing our democracy.”

Many of the demonstrators wore colorful butterfly wings to signify their migration across borders. They also spoke in favor of labor rights to mark International Workers’ Day.

The rally organizers said they are particularly concerned about private investment in a prison system that detains immigrants pending deportation.

Immigrant advocates have found themselves on the defensive since President Donald Trump took office, as he has issued executive orders seeking to restrict immigration from certain countries and to expand the pool of immigrants subject to deportation, either because they entered the country illegally or are facing criminal charges for acts allegedly committed here.

The administration has encountered many legal obstacles in implementing those policies, with civil liberties groups challenging them in federal courts. Trump also has not gotten funding approved in the budget for a wall along the southern border with Mexico.

Trump’s election and his administration’s rhetoric on immigration were what motivated Alejandra Serrano to become involved as a member of women’s advocacy group SEPA Mujer and to join her first demonstration Monday after 15 years on Long Island.

Serrano, who came here from Mexico and who lives in Brentwood, is afraid that she and her husband, who is from Honduras, could be deported under Trump’s strict enforcement plans. They have a 5-year-old son born on Long Island.

“I would like the government to know that we are not criminals,” Serrano, 34, a rubber factory worker, said in Spanish. “We are contributing here. All we do is work and pay our taxes. We’re not causing anybody harm.”

Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), among many impassioned speakers, said the Trump administration has been “looking to turn patriotism into ‘hatriotism,’ ” and the community needs to push back.

“The immigrant is here because of love for their family, and there’s no mountain, no border, no law, that is going to prevent us from taking care of our families,” Ramos said.

More than 80 people — immigrants, as well as their supporters and advocates — gathered outside the Nassau County Executive Building in Mineola on Monday afternoon. They chanted for immigrants’ and workers’ rights and criticized enforcement policies before marching several miles to Hempstead.

Francis Madi, an organizer with the New York Immigration Coalition, said the goal was “to send a clear sign to Trump and his administration that we will stand together and we will resist together” as workers and immigrants.

Susan Gottehrer, director of the Nassau Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said cooperation of local law enforcement agencies with immigration enforcement means those vulnerable to deportation “feel nationless, feel vulnerable and, yes, feel hunted” and said the administration is acting like “bullies and thugs.”

“They think nothing of breaking up families. Who does that?” Gottehrer said. “Bullies and thugs!” the crowd answered.

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