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Together We Will Long Island

Protesters carried a variety of signs against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies in Huntington Station June 30. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

While the Trump administration has rescinded its policy of separating immigrant children from their parents as they cross the U.S-Mexican border, local groups have continued to protest what they see is a huge miscarriage of justice.

“It was government sanctioned child abuse,” said Dr. Eve Krief, a Huntington pediatrician and founder of the Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate advocacy group. “Some kids might not ever see their parents again, and that’s horrendous — its criminal.”

Krief has worked along with fellow advocates Sharon Golden, co-founder of the political action network Together We Will Long Island, and Pilar Moya, co-founder of Latinos Unidos of Long Island, who have been hosting Families Belong Together rallies since the beginning of June to protest the family separations. The second rally was held June 30 as part of a nationwide day of protest. Nearly 50 organizations and close to 1,000 people attended, according to Krief.

From left, Sharon Golden of Together We Will Long Island and Dr. Eve Krief of Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate have organized the Huntington area Families Belong Together rallies, pictured above. Photo from Eve Krief

Before the 2016 presidential election, Krief said she was politically aware but had never been much of an activist. After Charlottesville Unite the Right rally that saw neo-Nazis marching in the street and events leading up to the death of a young political activist, she decided to establish her group to protest the Trump administration’s policies.

In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions instituted the zero-tolerance policy that meant any adult that was arrested upon entering the United States would have their child given over to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and be placed with a sponsor. The policy has led to more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents at the border.

A federal judge ruled that the separation was unlawful and gave two dates that the children must be reunited. All children under 5 were to be rejoined with their parents by July 10, and then all other children by July 26. Those dates came and went, and though the federal government claimed it had reunited all separated children, close to 700 were still not reunited with their parents due to some having criminal records and other red flags, or because some have already been deported while their children were still left in the U.S., according to CNN.

“Clearly, people thought that the problem was gone and resolved,” Krief said. “It’s clear that this administration had no plan when they separated them to reunify them.”

The groups will continue to protest. On July 29, the advocacy groups hosted another Families Belong Together rally at the intersection of Jericho Turnpike and Route 110 in Huntington Station. They are advocating for congressional oversight and transparency into the actions of the Trump administration during the period of family separation and for the children who must still be reunited with the parents, that the children receive trauma counseling, that the children and parents not be moved into detention centers and that those who came to the country seeking asylum be given the opportunity to go through the legal asylum process.

Nobody it seems is looking to heal these children. When a child is crying out for their momma, when babies are being taken away, they have no information to give them.

– Shannon Golden

Latinos Unidos Moya said that her nonprofit organization aids Latino immigrants and groups across Long Island and that the rallies that they host go beyond politics.

“I think it is more of a humanitarian crisis,” she said. “Our efforts are in finding common ground among all the parties, Republicans Democrats and Independents.”

Golden, who works as a therapist, said she has seen the traumatizing effects of children being separated from their parents in some of the adults with whom she has worked.

“These effects are life-lasting,” she said. “Nobody it seems is looking to heal these children. When a child is crying out for their momma, when babies are being taken away, they have no information to give them.”

There is no firm estimate about how long it will take the government to fully reunite the children with their parents, or what its policy will be if they are unable to find every parent who had been separated from their child. Meanwhile, Krief and her allies said they plan to continue holding rallies and
protesting. Their only hope is that awareness of the issue does not die.

“We will continue as long as we see there hasn’t been justice,” Krief said.

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