Rally To “Keep Families Together”

More than 200 people converged on the Village Green of East Quogue on Saturday afternoon, to protest the policy of President Donald Trump’s administration to separate immigrant children from their families.

Those who attended the rally — which was organized almost overnight through social media by Moveon.org — called for an end to the policy, chanting slogans like, “Unite, unite, unite,” “Hey ho, hey ho, Donald Trump has got to go,” sometimes interchanging the president’s name with that of Congressman Lee Zeldin. Other slogans shouted included, “This is what democracy looks like,” and “Sí, se puede,” which means “Yes, we can,” in Spanish.

Protestors, many of whom attended with their own children, held signs with phrases on them such as “Humanity before politics,” “No ban, no war, no hate, no fear,” and “Love trumps hate.”

People began to converge on the green at about 2 PM, gathering around the green’s iconic fountain to hear organizers and guest speakers challenge the president’s detention policy of placing children in internment camps, as well as the deputization of local law enforcement to carry out administrative warrants for the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, which facilitates deportation proceedings of immigrants who are arrested.

Organizer Christina Casey, a professor who teaches abroad and is visiting family on the East End, speaking from a megaphone, told to the crowd that there are more than 2000 children being held, separated from their families, although there is no other information about them. She said the purpose of the rally was to demand the reunification of children with their families, due process under the law for immigrants seeking refuge in the U.S., and the end of zero tolerance.

“Children do not belong in baby cages, and internment-like camps,” said Casey, adding that immigrant parents should not be “criminally prosecuted for trying to get their children to safety.”

“We cannot allow racists and xenophobic prejudices to be used as a smoke screen for our country’s slow-move toward isolated nationalism, nor to the enrichment of the President, his family, and friends, and not for the political agenda of dismantling our country’s political institutions and shredding our social safety net,” she said.

Cheryl Keshner, a paralegal and community advocate with the Empire Justice Center, which has offices in Islip and helps with legal assistance in low-income communities, said that she can’t imagine, as a mother, being “forcibly” separated from her children.

“I am also here as a person of Jewish heritage, whose family was persecuted during the Holocaust, and am here to say, ‘Never, ever again,’” she said, adding that Suffolk County has been “ground zero” for ICE enforcement over the last couple of years, with officials using the excuse of gang activity.

“Racial profiling has been happening here and we have seen family separation happening here. We have also seen a lot of ICE enforcement in our courts and in our communities in general. So, it is not only happening on the border. I just want people to be aware of that,” added Keshner.

Noemi Sanchez of Sepa Mujer, a non-profit group that provides advocacy services for immigrant women who are dealing with domestic violence, including helping them in seeking asylum, also spoke at the rally. Sanchez, a domestic violence survivor who was helped by the organization to obtain her documentation, noted migrants are often dealing with a “terrible situation” when they are coming to the U.S. and that people need to be more welcoming to them.

“We don’t need hate. We need love,” she said.

The rally also drew the support of other organizations, including speakers from groups such as Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, Neighbors in Support of Immigrants, East End Action Network, and Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin. Democratic Congressional candidate Perry Gershon, who was chosen by the party on June 26 to run in November in the First Congressional District against Congressman Zeldin, also lent his support to the rally, urging attendees to make their voices heard and vote.

In an email Monday, Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said the protests were “filled with people making all sorts of outrageous, extremist claims like calling for open borders and the abolishment of ICE, attacking the congressman for being Jewish and calling him a Nazi, which is totally disgusting as it gets.”

Protestors ended by singing, “This Land is Your Land,” by Woody Guthrie, with a march across the lawn and around the park as motorists drove by and honked their horns in support.

The rally was one of many held Saturday across the U.S., in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, with the main march happening in Washington, D.C.

Rallies were also held on the East End in East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and Greenport. See the story about the Greenport rally in the Traveler Watchman section in this week’s issue.

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