The lack of meaningful immigration reform was the focus of a bipartisan community event Sunday in Plainview headlined by Reps. Peter King and Thomas Suozzi.
The forum at the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center in Plainview included discussion of comprehensive immigration reform and the need to extend protections for immigrants under DACA and TPS. Immigrants worry they will be deported in the aftermath of Trump administration calls to end protections allowing them to stay in the U.S. legally.
President Donald Trump in September said he would seek to end DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and called on Congress to renew it. The Obama-era program granted protections for young immigrants who had entered the United States illegally as minors, through no fault of their own. Trump also said he would end Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, programs that offer provisional residency statuses to immigrants from countries beset by turmoil. Those protections are set to expire this year or next, depending on the country.
In New York, there are 16,200 Salvadorans and 5,200 Haitians with TPS protections, according to figures from the Center for American Progress.
King (R-Seaford) said that TPS “is probably the easiest of all the issues, morally and governmentally, because the people came here, they were invited into the country, they had terrible hardships in their own country, . . . they’ve raised families here.” He added, “This really should be resolved.”
“We have to sometime show the administration and show a majority of people in Congress why it is specifically a unique issue,” King said. “I’m not optimistic in the short run on that,” he said, adding, “I will do whatever can be done.”
During the forum, both congressmen addressed the growing and deadly presence of MS-13 gang violence on Long Island. “A big problem with gangs is when people are forced underground when people are afraid of government,” Suozzi said.
Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) spoke of the political realities at play in immigration reform, noting that Democrats and Republicans residing in safe districts often avoid finding centrist solutions because they fear alienating their political base. “If they were to dare sign onto a bill to make it [immigration reform] happen, they would have to worry about winning a primary,” Suozzi said of GOP lawmakers who avoid political compromises.
Suozzi and King sat at a table in the JCC’s auditorium across from a panel that included immigrant advocates, religious leaders and recipients of federal protections.
Isma Chaudhry, chairwoman of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, was among those sitting across from King and Suozzi. She cautioned those in attendance “not to establish a symbiotic relationship between terrorism and Muslims; between immigration and border security; between immigration and MS-13 or security.”
“What is happening now is everybody’s trying to establish a symbiotic relationship between these various issues and throw them in one big vat,” she said.
Josselin Paz, 20, a junior at SUNY Old Westbury and president of a campus group for students in the country without permission, said in an interview after the two-hour forum that she had heard many of the points made earlier. “It’s good to start conversations, but we also need action,” she said.