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Editorial: LI's ugly uproar over immigrant children

Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Commack.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Commack. Credit: Meghan Giannotta

Just when did children in need begin to spark such fear and outrage? The Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Commack has a preliminary plan to host as many as 40 kids, ages 4 through 17, who have entered the country illegally, fleeing problems in their Central American homelands. The church says it would generally house the children for seven to 30 days while they are in transit to the custody of family members. The youths would leave church grounds only for medical appointments or other crucial reasons.

Even with those restrictions, the reaction from community members has been furious. A recent meeting on the subject was canceled because so many people packed the church nestled in a residential neighborhood near a shopping center just off Jericho Turnpike to protest.

This reaction is not just about feelings toward immigrants: Some Commack residents have also battled a homeless shelter. And the feelings aren't specific to Commack. When word leaked that a former Grumman plant in Bethpage was on a list of potential shelters for these children, some politicians and community members were up in arms. On the bright side, MercyFirst, a long-established social services agency, has been able to house some of these children in Syosset with little controversy. These kids need help. They're not going to attend local schools or drive down property values or unleash a crime wave.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement says of the program: "ORR pays for and provides all services for the children while they are in care at a shelter. This includes providing food, clothing, education, medical screening, and any needed medical care to the children. Children spend fewer than 35 days on average at the shelters and do not integrate into the local community. They remain under staff supervision at all times."

The worst thing these children might do, it seems, is expose a cringing hatefulness among us.