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EDITORIAL: The homeless illegal immigrant conundrum

Cold and homeless. That's the description of a group of day laborers whose ramshackle shelter, built of tree limbs, poles and tarps in a wooded area near Huntington, was destroyed on Monday.

Huntington Town, aware of the problem for years, told the workers last week to move out, saying they were living in unsafe conditions. They were directed to privately operated shelters elsewhere, to spend their nights. Then, acting on stern warnings from the town, the property owner used chain saws to clear the area, which might soon be sold for a 535-unit housing complex.

Fortunately, these men - many apparently undocumented immigrants - have found food and overnight shelter in houses of worship through the Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative, a compassionate program demonstrating that private donations and charity can step in when government can't. These nonprofit agencies do not receive government reimbursements for services they provide to illegal immigrants.

These men compounded their problems when they trespassed on private property as squatters. And they shouldn't qualify for more than emergency assistance from taxpayers. Still, Nassau and Suffolk counties cannot ignore their plight.

Washington must overhaul immigration policy to make it easier for the undocumented to gain legal status as guest workers. Until then, the homeless who have fallen through the cracks of failed immigration policies shouldn't be left out in the cold.


An earlier version of this editorial had the wrong name of the Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative.