Editorial: Worry, fear sink in for immigrants across the North Fork

Last week, on Friday and Saturday evening in Riverhead and in Greenport, people came together out of concern and fear over the Trump administration’s aggressive efforts against immigrants trying to enter America at our southern border.

In Riverhead, some 250 people gathered on Main Street in an act of solidarity with those seeking asylum in the United States who are confined to cages in internment camps, where conditions have been described as horrific and inhumane. Some have labeled these detention centers “concentration camps.”

In Greenport, at St. Agnes R.C. Church, Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. Spanish Mass was an occasion to hear a homily about the good Samaritan as told in the Gospel of Luke, but also to express fear about what many expected would be ICE raids on Long Island the next day that could lead to mass deportations and family separations.

Rumors abounded in Greenport Saturday afternoon that ICE agents were already in the village, and those rumors spawned great fear that night as men and women, many with their children, sat in the pews after the Mass to chat with each other, worry etched on their faces, about what might come next.

Some asked questions: “Do I have to answer the door if they knock?” Or, “If my children were born in Greenport, can they still take me away?”

For those of you who need a refresher course, Luke 10:25-37 speaks of Jesus being questioned by a “certain lawyer” who, in addressing the issue of “who is my neighbor?” is told by Jesus the story of the good Samaritan who comes to the aid of a man who had been beaten and robbed. A priest and a Levite walk past the man, while a Samaritan “bound up” the man’s wounds and took him to an inn to recover.

“Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?” Jesus asks. He answers his own question: “He who showed mercy on him.”

This was certainly an appropriate reading during a Spanish Mass in Greenport on the eve of what had been billed as a nationwide effort to deport thousands of undocumented immigrants.

In Riverhead, the crowd stood outside First Congregational Church during the “Lights for Liberty” candlelight vigil. Many sounded a common theme: What is happening in the internment camps is not what America is about. We do not put children in cages, they said. Children should never be separated from their families, many said.

At the Spanish Mass, one man who remained said: “I came here because this is a great country and I wanted my children to be here. I have worked very hard and been respectful. This is my home.” Another man, whose three children were born here, said he has been on the North Fork for 21 years and has a very good job and fears that knock on the door and a forced separation from his children. “Can they do that?” he asked.

And that question, asked by several people, came up again and again: “If they come, do I have to let them in?”

As families filed out of St. Agnes into a lovely night in Greenport, a perfect summer evening in a glorious place, many looked worried, fearful their lives here will come to an end with a knock on their door. They clutched their children and walked to their homes.

Caption: Supporters at the vigil in Riverhead last week. (Credit: Mahreen Khan)