Local politicians announced at a July 2 news conference their plans to support the eight migrant children who were separated from their parents at the U.S. border and are currently staying at Mercy First in Syosset.
Nassau Unity was formed in response to President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, allowing the separation of families after they are detained at the U.S./Mexican border. Among the politicians involved are Legislature Joshua Lafazan (D, D-18), Rebecca Alesia, a councilwoman from the town of Oyster Bay and Legislature Arnold Drucker (D, D-16).
“I went to high school just down the road from Mercy First in Syosset,” Lafazan said as he opened the news conference. “I served for five years on the Syosset school board and I have lived in Syosset all my life. When the news broke that these children, some as young as six years old, thousands of miles away from their families, were being housed in my hometown, I wanted to act and, subsequently, so did the individual's standing next to me today.”
The first fundraiser hosted by Nassau Unity was held on July 2 at Hurricane Grill and Wings in Syosset. Dean George, the manager at Hurricane Grill and Wings, projected that 150 would attend the fundraiser, which charged $23 dollars to represent the 2,300 children across the United States who are separated from their families.
“It seems to be obviously a very current situation in our country, so we’ll help,” George said. “Anything we can do to help the children in our community.”
Hurricane Grill and Wings have worked with Lafazan in the past, holding fundraisers and election-watch parties.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Congressman Tom Suozzi, visited Mercy First on June 25 to see the campus where the children were being held. While they were not allowed to see the children, they were able to see the classrooms supported by a federal grant and learn about the resources that Mercy First provides the children. Curran and Suozzi confirmed that the eight children have had contact with their parents.
After the press conference, Drucker compared the family separations to actions taken by Nazis in Germany during the World War Two Era. “I’m a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, my wife is a daughter of Holocaust survivors and my father, rest in peace, told me that the Nazis did things like this,” Drucker said. “ [Nazis] separated parents from children for death camps. Same thing is happening now, 75 years later. It’s unimaginable.”
Outrage from activists, the media, and politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Paul Ryan, sparked Trump to end the separations and, on June 20, he signed an executive order to detain families together. However, only 500 of the 2300 children have been reunited with their families, according to a report by the Associated Press on July 2.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on June 27 that the state intends to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration for violating the constitutional rights of immigrant children and parents at the U.S./Mexican border. According to Governor Cuomo, 70 of these children are staying in federal shelters in New York.
“America is the most philanthropic nation on Earth,” Lafazan said. “I don’t think that philanthropy is zero sum and I think we can really make a difference in the life of [the eight children at Mercy First] and the lives of kids who need help too.”