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Immigration

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. speaks during an interviw at TBR News Media in Setauket July 20. Photo by Kyle Barr

Seven months into Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.’s (D-Lake Grove) term, several issues have become top priorities. He sat for an exclusive interview at the TBR News Media office with the editorial staff July 20 to detail the road ahead.

Staffing issues within Sheriff’s office

The sheriff’s office is short-staffed specifically due to officers retiring or leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere, according to Toulon.

“I’m almost signing one to two retirement letters a day,” he said. “We just lost two — one going to [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] police and one going to the New York City Police Academy. I’m expecting to lose two in the near future; more going to other law enforcement [jobs].”

The department is short on 76 mandated posts that the two county corrections facilities are supposed to have. This has led to an increase in overtime for existing corrections personnel. Toulon said he sees the low starting salary for Suffolk County corrections officers as the primary driver of the staff shortage. Those in the positions are paid $30,000 per year initially, reaching about $76,000 after 12 years. Starting salaries in Nassau County or New York City corrections are about $10,000 more.

“The people in our custody that have detainers are not good people. I wouldn’t want them on our streets – I wouldn’t care what their status is.”

— Errol Toulon Jr.

Toulon said 30 people will be graduating from the county academy Aug. 8 to fill some of the vacancies.

A pay raise would have to be approved by the Suffolk County Legislature, though Toulon said he supports it.

School Security

As the occurrences of school shootings seemingly increase nationally, especially after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, security has become a hot topic amongst school districts and communities. The sheriff’s office is working on the issue as well. Toulon said getting everybody on the same page when it comes to securing schools is a tough but essential job, which requires coordination between school security, police departments and the sheriff’s office.

“When you are going into these schools you frequently realize some of these schools have armed security, some have unarmed security, and some have security that are armed because they hired retired law enforcement, and it’s not publicized,” Toulon said.

School security officers obviously do not have standards as far as uniforms across county school districts. Further confusing local law enforcement, each school might have different protocols in engaging an active shooter, whether they will actively engage the shooter with a firearm or focus on getting the children to safety.

Toulon said he and his officers have gone into schools at the request of the districts to perform security assessments. So far 10 out of 69 school districts in Suffolk County have taken the Sheriff’s department up on the offer.

Toulon said an ideal setup might be having standardized training for all school districts and school security officers in the county not only so they would know what to do in a school fire, bomb or shooting scenario, but also because it would train them to interact with any local police that arrive on the scene.

The sheriff’s office plans to host a forum for Suffolk County school superintendents August 16 at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue to talk broadly about school security and to share ideas.

Dealing with gangs and immigration officials

Toulon said that while county jails only hold people charged with local crimes, they do work with the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency when it comes to some inmates.

“I’m almost signing one to two retirement letters a day.”

— Errol Toulon Jr.

“The sheriff’s office doesn’t profile people,” Toulon said. “If you blow a stop sign or a red light, we are going to pull you over. The people in our custody that have detainers are not good people. I wouldn’t want them on our streets – I wouldn’t care what their status is.”

Toulon stressed that the sheriff’s department does not participate on any ICE raids. He advised the immigrant community to know their Miranda Rights, that they do not have to communicate to police without a lawyer, and that anyone concerned about an arrest could contact the sheriff’s office.

Many people in local communities are concerned about activities perpetrated by the local incarnations of the MS-13 gang. Several high-profile gang murders were prosecuted in the past few years, including the 2017 murder of two young girls in Brentwood, complicating community-law enforcement relations and heating up a polarized, politically-based national discourse. Stories of abuses of power carried out by the federal agency, mostly in areas nearer to the southern border, have not been representative of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office’s dealings with ICE, Toulon said, adding that he would not tolerate inappropriate behavior from any uniformed officer within the facilities he oversees, be them staff under his purview or otherwise.

Toulon said comments made by President Donald Trump (R) on the matter have made his job tougher, especially when dealing with local immigrant communities.

“The tensions that I see in the immigrant community come from what they see going on in the rest of the country,” Toulon said. “The fact that our current president tweets about it and makes comments about a whole population – that is not fair, it makes my job a lot more difficult.”

Hundreds of Huntington area residents took a clear stand against President Donald Trump’s (R) immigration policies at the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Route 110 June 30.

Standing two to three people deep on all four sides of the intersection, protesters held signs with messages of “Families belong together,” “No human is illegal” and homemade signs calling for “Reunite families.”  The chant of “Love not hate makes America great” was taken up as a refrain. Each honk from a passing car or truck providing the crowd of more than 600 — an unofficial estimate — with a new wave of energy to combat the sweltering heat.

At a podium set up at the northwest corner of the intersection, speakers from a coalition of more than 50 organizations — including Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate, New York Chapter 2 of The American Academy of Pediatrics, Latinos Unidos de Long Island, Sepa Mujer and many others — took turns speaking to those gathered on a bullhorn.

We hope our rally displays the love and compassion we hope that America can represent as well as the hopeful and powerful nature of our democracy.”
– Pilar Moya

“We hope our rally displays the love and compassion we hope that America can represent as well as the hopeful and powerful nature of our democracy,” said Pilar Moya, founder of Latinos Unidos de Long Island, a nonprofit organization that helps provide support and a community for Latino families. “Our message to the families separated at the border is, ‘You matter, and our voices are our extensions of yours.’”

More than 2,300 immigrant parents and their children were separated after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacted a zero-tolerance policy for those who crossed the border illegally in mid-April. After public outcry, Trump signed an executive order June 20 designed to end the family separations. The policy has been both denounced by members of the Trump administration as a holdover Obama-era procedure and publicly cited as a new strategy intentionally instituted to deter asylum seekers from trying to come to America.

“Our mission is to protect the health and well-being of all children, regardless of their immigration status,” said Dr. Steve Goldstein, pediatrician and president of New York Chapter 2 of The American Academy of
Pediatrics. “We want to see immediate reunification of those children already taken from their parents. We oppose housing families and children in detention centers and prefer community settings for them and we want to see timely determinations of applications for asylum.”

Despite Trump’s executive order, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee last week that there were still 2,047 children in federal custody as of the last week of June.

“As a therapist working with adults who have PTSD resulting from childhood  traumas, what is being done to children separated from their parents is creating trauma that is everlasting,” said Sharon Golden, founder of Together We Will — Long Island, which identifies as an advocacy group for human rights. “I cannot accept what is going on and how the immigrant community is being treated, and I will stand by them and continue to fight for them until they are given the rights they deserve.”

Rabbi Aaron Benson of North Shore Jewish Center speaks during an interfaith prayer vigil June 24. Photo by Alex Petroski

Normally various religious leaders getting together at the same place and time sounds like the lead-in to a joke, but an event at North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station June 24 was far from a laughing matter.

United States immigration policy, specifically the recently instituted “zero tolerance policy” by President Donald Trump (R) and his administration, which has resulted in the detention of several thousands of people and the separation of families attempting to cross the border together, was the topic of discussion during an interfaith vigil of prayer and unity at the Synagogue Sunday.

Reverend Richard Visconti of Stony Brook Community Church performs “Give Peace a Chance” with help from Haven Sellers at an interfaith prayer vigil regarding United States immigration policy June 24. Video by Alex Petroski

Rabbi Aaron Benson of NSJC, Reverend Richard Visconti of Caroline Church and Cemetery in East Setauket, Reverend Chuck Van Houten of Stony Brook Community Church, Irma Solis of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, Yousuf Sayed of the Islamic Association of Long Island, Rabbi Steven Moss of B’nai Israel Reform Temple and Reverend Kate Jones Calone of Setauket Presbyterian Church were among the speakers collectively denouncing the policy at the event.

“The goal is to inspire our community to advocate for national border and immigration policies guided by a basic sense of human dignity and worth for all people involved,” a press release announcing the event said. “America should be a country leading the world in compassion and human rights. In this moment, where our country falls short of that, the religious community continues to lead with morals and hope that our followers will stand together for these families.”

Moss, who also serves as chairperson for the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission, said the leaders of the represented faiths — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — were brought to the event through the foundations of religious traditions.

“We must stand firm, together — stand tall against these laws and rules, orders and directives that fail to protect the poor, the needy, the homeless, the immigrant — both legal and illegal — and their children from being mistreated, demonized, dehumanized and brutalized,” Moss said. “A government that fails to protect all people is not a government at all.”

Jones Calone, in addressing the dozens gathered at NSJC, likened what she described as the rising tensions brought about by the political otherization of migrants seeking refuge at American borders to sitting in a tub of water gradually getting hotter, adding it’s finally reached a boiling point.

It seemed unbelievable at first, reports that read like bad dreams — desperate mothers and fathers; transports in the middle of the night; cages; warehoused, crying children.”

— Kate Jones Calone

“This is, appropriately, a confession, because if it takes the horror of hearing warehoused children crying to make many Christians uncomfortable with what is usual, then it has taken too long,” she said, turning to her bathtub comparison, and saying the temperature has continued to rise every time the nation is silently complicit with the demonization of certain religions, with limits or bans on certain people from certain places or with violence against people not in power. “’How awful,’ we say — a response I’ve said, heard, felt many times over the past weeks to stories that seem like bad dreams trickling out slowly at first and then printed in line after line, video segment after video segment. It seemed unbelievable at first, reports that read like bad dreams — desperate mothers and fathers; transports in the middle of the night; cages; warehoused, crying children.”

Benson and the leaders, many of whom are members of the Three Village Clergy Council, indicated on a pamphlet handed out at the event that there are ways to help, directing those in attendance to familiesbelong.org, hias.org/take-action among others. He said the group is also planning on holding future events.

Trump signed an executive order last week designed to end family separations as the national attention to the story reached a critical mass, though as of press time around 500 of 2,300 separated parents and children detained apart at the U.S.-Mexico border have since been reunited. The policy has been both denounced by members of the Trump administration as a holdover Obama-era procedure and publicly cited as a new strategy intentionally instituted to deter asylum seekers from trying to come to America.

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In light of current national events, a gnawing question surfaces — what happened to American values?

Even the staunchest defenders of President Donald Trump (R) have to concede what’s currently going on at the borders of the United States is deeply troubling — the separation of parents from their children.

The thought of just one child being separated from his or her family, crying for even a second, should be enough to deter any American with a conscience from supporting the president’s current policy. And yes, it is he and his administration’s to own, no matter what they want us to believe.

The president has falsely claimed the immoral and inhumane policy of separating children from their parents who cross the border illegally was “a Democrat’s law.” It is not a law. Now it turns out, he is signing an executive order ending this loathsome policy.

According to PolitiFact — a fact-checking site owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute for Media Studies — the zero-tolerance policy that the Trump administration introduced in April, and one our president now admitted he has the power to change, has led to the massive uptick in children of all ages stuck in federal facilities without their parents. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Chief of Staff John Kelly have publicly intimated the aim of the new policy is to deter people from seeking asylum in the U.S. Even so, that hasn’t happened. Illegal immigrants are so desperate to flee their countries, they are walking into this crisis as the lesser of two terrible evils.

On June 15, federal officials announced that 1,995 children have been separated from 1,940 adults at the border between April 19 and May 31. Parents were referred for prosecution.

Facts matter regarding the details of the new policy, especially as the White House and cabinet members like Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen cry “fake news.” It would be accurate to say the Trump administration has not explicitly crafted a policy calling for the separation of families entering the U.S. illegally. However,  zero tolerance has created the problem, because illegally crossing the border was previously handled as a civil offense. This allowed families to be detained together, but now, as the felonies are turning into criminal charges, parents are being taken into police custody while children are frequently sent to a Walmart-turned-detention center in Texas, which grows more crowded by the day, and other places around the country.

This is all indisputable fact. We as Americans have a responsibility to acknowledge this, politicians and officials.

We encourage anyone as troubled by this as we are to reach out to your houses of worship to see if they’re taking steps to aide those being affected. Who are looking after the safety and welfare of these children? Donate your time or money to one of the more than 10 rapid response networks aiding Long Island immigrants, or organizations like RAICES, a Texas-based nonprofit that provides legal defense for individuals in immigration court.

This is not our America, and this is not your America. This is not anyone’s America. We cannot remain silent. When government fails, it is up to us to stand up for one of America’s intrinsic values — freedom and the entitlement to basic human rights.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Dozens of Huntington residents gathered in the shadow of Constitution Oak last Friday, to declare the intent to fight for the human rights of immigrant children across Long Island and the nation.

More than 100 residents gathered June 15 to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies at the Huntington Village Green Park, near the intersection of Park Avenue and Main Street. Many carried signs reading “Families Belong Together” alongside the Spanish translation, “Familias Unidas, No Divididas,” while others imitated children crying out for their parents calling out to passing pedestrians and drivers.

“We are all disturbed and outraged with this administration’s new policy of separating children from their parents,  parents whose only crime is to bring their family to safety,” said Dr. Eve Krief, a Huntington pediatrician who founded the nonprofit group Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate. “We demand an immediate end to this horrendous, cruel and unjustified policy.”

“We demand an immediate end to this horrendous, cruel and unjustified policy.”
– Eve Krief

In mid-April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy for immigrants who cross the border illegally, which means they can be arrested and prosecuted. There have been 1,995 children taken from 1,940 adults at the border from April 19 to May 31, according to reporting by the Associated Press.

Victoria Hernandez, an outreach coordinator for SEPA Mujer Long Island, a nonprofit organization that represents immigrant women, called for her neighbors and community members to take action against Trump’s policies. She suggested calling and writing to elected officials, as well as signing SEPA Mujer’s online petition at www.sepamujer.org.

“We have to take action to prevent Jeff Sessions from allowing this violence against women and children from occurring,” Hernandez said. “For the children, please, for the children take action.”

An immigrant couple with their young son from the Huntington area stood in the crowd, arms wrapped around each other as Hernandez spoke. The family was in court days earlier pleading their case for asylum, according to Huntington Rapid Response Network volunteer Renee Bradley, and will know within the next four months if they’ve been accepted or face deportation.

“They fear they could be injured or face certain death if forced to return to their home country,” she said, declining to release more specific details.

“I wasn’t asking for the opportunity or wonders of America, I was just asking for the Lord to give me one more chance to hug my mother again.”
– Dr. Harold Fernandez

Bradley works with other members of the Huntington Rapid Response Network to provide immigrant families with legal services and support as they face legal process and get settled. It is one of eight such groups across Long Island associated with Jobs with Justice, a Washington D.C. nonprofit that fights for equal worker’s rights, that provides immigrants with referrals to trusted immigration lawyers and free services, translation services, accompaniment to court dates and other social support. Bradley said she currently is aiding several asylum seekers with their cases.

“A lot of people are being caught up in a very wide net that’s all about MS-13, and MS-13 is being used to demonize the entire immigrant population,” she said.

Dr. Steve Goldstein, president of Chapter 2 of New York State’s American Academy of Pediatrics, said that the separation of children from their parents and detention can have life-long health impacts from the toxic stress it causes. Goldstein said it can lead to chronic anxiety, predisposition to high blood pressure, and cause detrimental changes in brain function and structure citing research done by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

One doctor shared his personal story of making his way to the United States as an illegal immigrant from Columbia with the protestors. Dr. Harold Fernandez said at age 12 he traveled to the Bahamas, where he and 10 others boarded a small boat at midnight to make his way into the U.S. and reunite with parents, who were already working here.

“Rob children from their parents, put them in cages and treat them like animals — they will be wounded and broken forever.”
– Rev. Marie Tatro

“The trip was only seven hours, but I can tell you it [was] the longest seven hours of my life,” he said. “I wasn’t asking for the opportunity or wonders of America, I was just asking for the Lord to give me one more chance to hug my mother again.”

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said he was appalled by what is happening across the nation and wants to propose an Immigrant Protection Act in Suffolk County. He referred to legislation approved by Westchester County lawmakers in March that limited the information the county shares with federal immigration authorities and bars employees from asking about a person’s citizenship in most circumstances. Spencer said he believed other Suffolk lawmakers would support such a bill.

“You want the perfect recruiting tool for groups like MS-13, here it is,” said Rev. Marie Tatro, with the Community Justice Ministry at the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. “Rob children from their parents, put them in cages and treat them like animals — they will be wounded and broken forever.”

Tatro said several Long Island churches and religious organizations are springing into action to help immigrants affected by offering them sanctuary, providing them with safe haven from Immigration and Custom Enforcement officers.

“There are angels of mercy working tirelessly all across Long Island to provide help,” she said. “We are all in this together, we will, and we must learn from history.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Flie photo by Alex Petroski

Even though it feels like Election Day 2016 was sometime last week, the 2018 midterms are right around the corner.

To that end, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) hosted a telephone town hall March 14 to give constituents the opportunity to ask questions and hear where he stands on hot-button issues in New York’s 1st
Congressional District. This was one of several telephone town halls Zeldin has hosted since he was re-elected in 2016, though many of his constituents have been rabidly calling for him to host in-person town halls for more than a year, in addition to the three-in-one day town halls he hosted in April 2017, on what some felt was short notice.

“While in D.C. these telephone town halls allow me to reach out to the greatest number of constituents at once, allowing me to listen to your concerns and answer your questions,” he said on the call. “Listening to your questions and insight is such an important part of my job.”

Zeldin fielded about 10 questions during the 60-minute call on a wide array of topics. Below are some of the highlights, with questions bolded and lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

Michael: “I did vote for [President Donald] Trump (R)], but I was very disturbed when he said what he said as far as due process and our Second Amendment rights, taking guns away from people that may be perceived as not having any business having them. I wanted to be assured that you would do your part to remind our president that due process does not come second.”

“I totally agree with you, due process is incredibly important,” Zeldin said, though he offered some qualifiers that sounded as though there was at least some common ground between his position and what Trump said during a televised listening session with survivors of the February shooting in Parkland, Florida. Trump suggested that those who display signs they might be harmful to themselves or others should have guns seized immediately, prior to a crime being committed, due process be damned. He has since backed off from that sentiment.

“It’s important that we’re doing what we need to do, smart policy to keep people safe,” Zeldin said. “There were so many balls that were dropped in Parkland, at different levels of government … People who are
saying Nikolas Cruz shouldn’t have had access to a particular kind of firearm, I’ll say, a guy who shows — I don’t care if he’s 19 or 89 — anyone who is showing all of those threats and indicators, they should not have access to any firearm.”

Zeldin also reiterated his support for the Second Amendment and citizens’ right to bear arms. He also in response to a later question said he thought it was great that high school students locally and nationally are
educating themselves on issues and making their opinions known.

Nora: “In regard to the opioid epidemic, I realize that lots of funding keeps on being funneled toward this crisis, and I see that police are arresting more and more of the drug dealers. I’m not seeing in the hospital setting that the people themselves who are taking the drugs or addicted are getting the help they need. Are there any plans to build facilities for people to get the help they need before they die?”

Zeldin responded to Nora, who said she is a nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital, by saying in a discussion he was involved in with several generals discussing the future of foreign diplomacy, he relayed to them that opioid addiction is nearing the level of a national security threat. The congressman touted previously passed legislation, specifically the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, an $8.3 billion plan to fight drug addiction in the United States, with a significant amount of funding for prevention and treatment, and added that the bill needed repeated funding annually.

He mentioned a need to improve the quality of treatment facilities or sober homes, as well as legislation that would help to prevent the practice of “doctor shopping,” or seeking prescriptions for pain medications to feed opioid addiction. However, he fairly quickly pivoted to border security.

“When we talk about border security or people entering our country, what often gets lost in that is this is also illegal substances as well,” he said.

Frank: “Nationally there needs to be some support of President Trump in stopping illegal immigration, and what I was concerned about locally is my understanding is that there are many areas on Long Island that support sanctuary status — it’s a blatant disregard for federal law and something needs to be done about this.”

“I’m with you,” Zeldin said. He went on to name a number of examples of illegal immigrants committing violent crimes in cities around the United States as evidence the practice of protecting illegal immigrants from federal prosecution simply for that reason needing to be ended. “The sanctuary city policies we see across the country are so wrong. The federal government is responsible for creating immigration law in this country, and where you have local politicians pandering for votes and refusing to assist … you’re putting our law enforcement officers at risk. I have colleagues that celebrate illegal immigration.”

The full recording of the town hall can be heard on Zeldin’s website, www.zeldin.house.gov.

Republicans Phil Boyle and Larry Zacarese and Democrat Dan Caroleo are running for Suffolk County sheriff. Photos from left, from Phil Boyle, Larry Zacarese and Suffolk Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer

Three candidates are currently in the race to become Suffolk County sheriff this November. State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-East Islip), career law enforcer Larry Zacarese (R), Boyle’s Republican primary challenger, and retired New York City police officer Dan Caroleo (D) are each hoping to inherit the position held for 12 years by Vincent DeMarco (R), who announced in May his decision not to seek a fourth term. He declined to comment on his decision.

Boyle, 55, of Bay Shore, who was elected to the New York Senate in November 2012 after serving 16 years as a state assemblyman, was endorsed for sheriff by the Suffolk Conservative Party in March and was backed by both the Republican and Independent parties soon after.

If elected, Boyle, a stepfather of two, said he wants to run the sheriff’s office in the most cost-effective manner possible, promote people based on merit rather than politics and halt the rise of drug overdoses and gang violence. He recently co-sponsored a bill to ban the sale of machetes to minors, the weapon of choice for MS-13 gang members.

The senator, who chaired and helped create the state Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction in 2013 to stamp out the growing drug problem, pointed to his active involvement pushing law enforcement issues in Albany as significant qualifiers.

Under the task force, 18 hearings were held across the state, which led to 11 prevention, treatment and enforcement measures passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

When it comes to immigration issues, Boyle said he disagrees with how DeMarco has run the jail.

“I work closely with federal immigration agents to make sure any individuals housed in the Suffolk County jail that agents may want to interact with due to immigration status have access to that,” Boyle said. “DeMarco, for a while, made the jail a sanctuary jail, in my opinion, and I’m definitely not going to allow that to happen.”

Zacarese, 43, of Kings Park, who is currently the assistant chief of  the Stony Brook University police, said he’s looking forward to the primary. Zacarese and his “army of volunteers” are currently gathering 2,000 signatures in order to run. Confident he’s not just another choice, but the better choice, for the top law enforcement job, Zacarese outlined his 25-year law enforcement career.

He started as a Holbrook volunteer fireman at 17, went to paramedic school, then began to work in the NYPD as a patrol officer, canine handler and tactical paramedic. He became a sergeant, then deputy chief fire instructor at the Suffolk County Fire Academy and an adjunct lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Stony Brook University.

For four years, while working at Stony Brook by day, Zacarese pursued his shelved passion, attending law school by night. He is currently admitted to practice law in the state.

“My wife tells me I’m the biggest underachiever she knows,” the father of four said, laughing. “I’ve worked really hard rounding out all of the areas that are pertinent to the office of sheriff, which is much more than just the person who oversees the correctional facilities.”

He said, if elected, his main priority is the opioid crisis.

“We really need to take a better look at the prevention and collaboration between addiction programs and not-for-profits, as well as how we can influence treatment while people are being incarcerated,” he said. “It’s about [providing] help while they’re in jail so when they return to their communities, they have started on the path to recovery.”

Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairman Richard Schaffer, campaign manager for Caroleo, 62, of North Babylon, who was unavailable for comment, said the former New York City police officer, director of security at the North Babylon School District and current member of the district’s school board has, “a wealth of experience, he’s well-rounded and I think he can work cooperatively with, and continue, what County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, and DeMarco have laid out — making sure we continue to drive down jail population.”

According to Schaffer, “Caroleo feels he has a great deal of public safety experience” that he could bring to the sheriff’s department.

Stony Brook students from around the world attend an informational forum regarding President Trump's executive order restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority nations at the Charles B. Wang Center Feb. 1. Photo by Kevin Redding

Stony Brook University students, many of them international, poured into the Charles B. Wang Center on campus last week to voice their concerns and seek guidance following President Donald Trump’s (R) controversial executive order signed Jan. 27 which put a temporary freeze on travelers entering the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations.

A 19-year old student from Yemen, one of the seven countries targeted under the ban, said he’s afraid of being detained if he were to travel through John F. Kennedy International Airport for spring break. He asked not to be identified because of safety concerns.

A 24-year-old Muslim student from Bangladesh wanted to know if she’d be able to see her family this year.

A 22-year old student from Pakistan said he’s no longer interested in finding a physics job in the United States because, as he put it, “it’s just not an environment I want to be in.”

On Feb. 1, less than a week after Trump signed the order to ban citizens of the seven nations from entering the U.S. for 90 days, and all refugees for 120 days —the order has since been temporarily halted by a federal appeals court, though the U.S. Justice Department filed an appeal of the ruling — the university hosted an information session with two New York City-based immigration lawyers, Alexander Rojas and Eric Lorenzo of Barst Mukamal & Kleiner LLP.

According to Dr. Jun Liu, SBU’s Vice Provost for Global Affairs and Dean of International Academic Programs and Services, the session was organized by SBU President Dr. Samuel Stanley to affirm the university’s “commitment to diversity, strong values of inclusiveness, and campus environment that welcomes all.”

The legal experts addressed and interpreted the immigrant reform, which Rojas described as “startling,” as it stood on the day, and fielded questions from those in attendance. Representatives from the offices of Visa and Immigration Services and Dean of Students were also on hand to offer support and answer questions.

Rojas repeatedly advised students currently holding visas from any of the seven affected countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — to remain in the U.S. until the end of the 90-day period, April 27, because, as he said, “there is no guarantee that you’ll be allowed re-entry into the [U.S.].”

The three main student visas are F-1, H-1, and J-1, nonimmigrant visas for those studying, those in “specialized occupations,” and those wishing to take part in work-and-study-based exchange and visitor programs, respectively.

According to Lorenzo, the only type of visa excluded from the executive order are G-1, or diplomatic, visas, which are typically for representatives of foreign governments within the United Nations or foreign embassies within the U.S.

But Rojas, who acknowledged there’s still plenty of uncertainty hanging over the ban in terms of its function and development, said those within immigration law anticipate Trump might extend the 90-day period and implement considerations with regards to the countries listed, something the order already laid out as a possibility.

According to the lawyer, an unconfirmed draft with additional countries for the travel ban list had been circulating. The rumored additional countries, Rojas said, are Egypt, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, Venezuela, Philippines, and Mali.

“It would be prudent to not travel until there’s further guidance with regards to what the White House is going to do with respect to these additional countries proposed on that [supposed] list,” he said. Rojas added he’s not sure of the rationale behind any of the nations currently on the list, or the ones speculated to be in danger of being placed under similar restrictions.

The student from Bangladesh, who would only identify herself as Adrita, was told by Rojas that since her native country is not currently on the travel ban list, she should have no concerns about traveling back home to see her family.

While the 24-year-old genetics student admitted she’s glad to know she won’t be affected by the ban, she called the whole situation unfair.

“Even though I’m not from any of the affected countries, the ban seems to apply to Muslims…so obviously I’m concerned,” Adrita said. “Pakistan is one of the [possible] countries, and Pakistan is right next to Bangladesh. My parents told me ‘forget it, don’t travel, what if you’re told to come back to us?’ I’m doing a PhD here; I can’t just leave.”

Trump has insisted since the roll out of the order it’s not a Muslim ban but a security measure to prevent threats of terrorism.

“America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave,” the President said in a statement. “We will keep it free and keep it safe…to be clear, this is not a Muslim ban…this is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”

Daud Khan, 22, from Pakistan, said he anticipated this sort of situation upon Trump’s election.

“I was just home [in Pakistan] in December for my brother’s wedding and I made it a point to return before Trump’s inauguration so I arrived Jan. 19 to be on the safe side,” he said. “Because you don’t know what he’s going to do.”

Education advocates march into the office of state Sen. John Flanagan on Thursday calling for the passage of the New York State Dream Act. Photo by Phil Corso

The Smithtown office of state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) had a line going out the door last week as advocates called on him and his fellow lawmakers to pass the New York State Dream Act before legislative session ended.

Dream Act advocates congregate outside Sen. John Flanagan's office Thursday in prayer. Photo by Phil Corso
Dream Act advocates congregate outside Sen. John Flanagan’s office Thursday in prayer. Photo by Phil Corso

Various faith leaders from congregations across Long Island gathered in prayer outside Flanagan’s office on Thursday with hopes of nudging the recently appointed Senate majority leader to help pass the Dream Act before session ended June 17. The advocates held up signs in protest of the state’s sluggish pace in making the legislation a reality for the nearly 146,000 undocumented immigrants across New York who graduated from public high schools but are unable to access federally-funded financial aid for college.

The bill, which has passed in the Assembly in February by a vote of 87-45, would open up state aid for the students.

Peggy Fort, a retired teacher and social justice chair of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, stood in the crowd outside Flanagan’s office Thursday and said the state had to act before thousands of up-and-coming immigrant children are locked out of the higher education process.

“Allowing our New York State ‘dreamers’ who are full of courage, creativity and intellect to access funding for higher education is a way of ensuring the future of New York State,” she said. “It makes absolutely no sense to continue this policy of no action. But I think we will be able to turn that around.”

A June 2015 report from the Fiscal Policy Institute found there were 526,000 immigrants living on Long Island, making up 18 percent of the population and 20 percent of the economic output. Of those immigrants, almost 100,000 are undocumented — about half living in Suffolk County and half in Nassau.

Sister Rosalie Carven delivers petitions to state Sen. John Flanagan's Chief of Staff Ray Bernardo on Thursday. Photo by Phil Corso
Sister Rosalie Carven delivers petitions to state Sen. John Flanagan’s Chief of Staff Ray Bernardo on Thursday. Photo by Phil Corso

Victoria Daza, of workers advocacy group Long Island Jobs with Justice, said Flanagan was an ideal Long Island lawmaker to head up the Dream Act push, as his North Shore district encompasses educational hubs Stony Brook University and Suffolk County Community College. Daza said it was unacceptable that Flanagan has yet to publicly support the legislation in the four years since it was first introduced, leaving students to foot their full college bill with each passing year.

“The Dream Act cannot wait,” she said. “Education is a human right and these kids should not be excluded.”

Flanagan’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Soon after a short prayer vigil outside, the throng of advocates marched into Flanagan’s office along with more than 100 petition signatures. Sister Rosalie Carven, a social justice coordinator with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood, walked into the office with conviction before handing over the paperwork and asking Flanagan Chief of Staff Ray Bernardo to deliver their message.

“It can’t stop here. Everyone here is an advocate for the passage of this,” she said. “The time is now. The job has to get done. It’s discriminatory to keep kids out of higher education.”

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