“No hate! No fear!” chants rang out in front of Rockville Centre’s Long Island Rail Road station last Saturday morning as the crowd began growing. “Immigrants are welcome here!”
The march was the first of several across Long Island, with the last one starting at 5 p.m. in East Meadow. There, in the early-evening heat, protesters marched from East Meadow High School to the Nassau County Correctional Center, shouting in Spanish, “Trump, escucha, estamos en la lucha!” or, “Trump, listen, we are in the fight.”
Hundreds of protests took place nationwide in response to President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, focused on ending the separation of families trying to enter the country.
Over the past few months, about 2,000 minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border have been separated from their parents or guardians, according to Department of Homeland Security officials. Unlike previous administrations, the current one opted to charge every adult caught crossing the border illegally with a federal crime, instead of referring those with children to immigration courts.
On June 20, Trump signed an executive order to detain families together. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered on June 26 that migrant children who had been separated from their parents must be returned to their families within 30 days, and that those under age 5 must be returned within 14 days.
“I have met with a number of people who have ended up in ICE detention . . . and I could tell you it is separating families,” said Emily Torstveit Ngara, the director of the Deportation Defense Clinic at Hofstra University School of Law, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “People who have been here since the ’80s, people with adult U.S. citizen children, are being deported every day.”
The Long Island branch of the LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund organized the East Meadow rally, with help from workers’ rights groups Long Island Jobs with Justice and the Long Island branches of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Workplace Project.
The crowd of several dozen people marched down Carman Avenue with signs, chanting, “No hate, no fear. Immigrants are welcome here.” Some cars honked in support as they passed the protesters. Some participants rallied for what they called humane immigration reform, and encouraged attendees to raise their voices and vote, while others called for ICE’s abolition.
“We denounce it because it’s a criminalization of people who are just working to make ends meet,” Juan Cartagena, the president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said of the administration’s policy. “We denounce it because it’s a criminalization of people who are immigrants.”
The Trump administration has said that families can be held together for more than 20 days — or as long as their immigration court cases take — which goes against a 1997 court order requiring the Department of Homeland Security to release undocumented minors caught crossing the border after 20 days.
In preparation for detaining families together, construction of tent encampments was expected to begin after July Fourth on two military bases in Texas.
Lynn Hoch, of Woodmere, a former speech and language pathologist in the Lynbrook School District, and Rockville Centre resident Hellen Tai, a former Lynbrook teacher, said they attended the Rockville Centre rally together to advocate for the families.
“Our hearts are breaking every single day,” Hoch said, adding that this would not be her last rally. “We cry every day for the children and the parents who are separated, and we can’t sit still. We must act, and this was an act.”
Brian Stieglitz contributed to this story.