Welcoming Week: A Plea for Compassion for 2,000 Young Long Island Arrivals
September 15, 2014
by Mike Clifford
NEW YORK – It’s National Welcoming Week – a time when some Americans celebrate the value of immigrants to their communities.
On Long Island, that means extending a hand to some very new and young arrivals.
About 2,000 children have arrived in recent months on Long Island, escaping brutal conditions in their home countries.
Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Long Island Wins, says about 90 percent of these children fled into the arms of waiting family members.
“They range from four to 17 years old, and the bulk of the children are [in] elementary school,” she points out. “They are tired, they are weary from this journey. They are scared, they’re young – they need help.”
As part of Long Island Welcoming Week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone will highlight a naturalization ceremony for new citizens on Thursday, and will declare Suffolk a “welcoming community.”
Welcoming Week wraps up Friday with Long Island faith leaders calling for compassion for local immigrants, especially the newly arrived children.
While some media refer to these children as undocumented, unaccompanied minors, Slutsky says – especially during Welcoming Week – people need to remember the serious reasons that prompted them to leave their home countries, and the current stress of finding themselves in legal limbo.
“This is definitely a humanitarian crisis,” she stresses. “It will remain to be seen if the U.S. government will classify them as refugees, but in reality, that’s what they are.”
More than 13,000 people in 27 states are expected to participate in National Welcoming Week.
It was started by Welcoming America, a national grassroots collaborative that aims to promote mutual respect and cooperation between native-born and foreign-born Americans.
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