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LI Sees Biggest Influx of Refugee Kids: Advocates say Due Process is Key

August 29, 2014

NEW YORK - It's a big number that's making headlines in New York, but local advocates for immigrants say the flow of unaccompanied minors to Long Island is being taken in stride.

Reports published in Newsday show that Long Island leads the state for the number of unaccompanied children arriving in 2014. Maryann Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins, said it is a newsworthy number - but also little surprise.

"Long Island is the fifth-largest Central American community in the U.S.," she said. "So, it's no surprise that these children would be coming here to reunite with family members who are already living on Long Island."

Slutsky said these new young arrivals all will face administrative hearings to determine if they will be able to remain in the United States. She added that they represent a tiny fraction - less than 1 percent - of all children on Long Island.

Among those keeping watch over the legal process for these young refugees is Daniel Altschuler, Long Island coordinator for Make the Road New York.

"We're a country that prides itself on how it takes care of its children," he said. "It's critical that every child who arrives on Long Island is treated with compassion, and also receives the protection of his or her due-process rights."

As parents get ready to send their kids back to school, Slutsky said, even the addition of 2,000 new immigrants will hardly create a blip on the radar.

"Most communities will hardly notice," she said. "It's not going to be huge amounts of children registering for school in September, because they'll be scattered all over Nassau and Suffolk counties."

Advocates say the long-term solution requires Congress to take action on immigration reform. President Obama is expected to take some immigration-related executive action this fall, but it isn't expected to cover unaccompanied minors.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY