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Landmark lessons: NY should welcome immigrant youth


Immigration reform and the status of about 70,000 unaccompanied children at the US-Mexican border was a top political issue this past summer. Although not a border state, New York and Long Island played a significant role.

The state accepted more than 3,200 children to be housed with relatives with more than 7,000 expected by next year. Long Island accepted 2,200-plus boys and girls under the age of 17, the highest of any part of the tri-state area.

New York is home to the Statue of Liberty, the ultimate symbol of Americans dedicated to immigration, and the first thing seen by over 12 million immigrants processed at Ellis Island, the nation’s busiest immigration station from 1860 to 1920.

Hofstra students should support continuing this rich tradition and urge lawmakers to accept more unaccompanied children that arrive at the southern border. As young people who often get the short end of the stick in the political arena, it’s on us to show support for youngsters unable to vote.

These migrant minors are fleeing nations with some of the world’s highest homicide rates. The United Nations has reported a dramatic rise in murder rates across Central America since 2006, with some nations experiencing higher murder rates than even Afghanistan or the Congo. Another UN report finds violence is a top reason migrant children give for fleeing their homeland.

There are more humane alternatives to dealing with the immigration problem than refusing desperate children entrance to the U.S. It’s literally a life and death matter for these kids.

The statue, sitting less than 50 miles away from Hofstra’s campus, symbolizes the tradition of acceptance and asylum upon which our nation was founded.

Broken chains near the Statue’s feet represent breaking free from tyranny by seeking liberty in America. Many children who cross the border are fleeing oppressive governments and dangerous conditions to come to America for safety and opportunity.

The seven spikes on the Statue’s crown represent the seven seas and seven continents, signifying that liberty is a universal concept, not one just for current American citizens.

An inscription at the base of the statue reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Children from across Central America are justifiably yearning to breathe free. New York should grant their wish.

Hofstra, like the U.S. as a whole, is a place filled with diversity and opportunity for all students, local and international. We attend Hofstra for access to the opportunities it offers for a better future. Immigrant children have come to the U.S. with the same wish. If we recognize its importance for us, we should do the same for them. Students here should take the status of unaccompanied immigrant minors and their families to heart.

It’s critical that New York takes the lessons from one of its most famous landmarks by pushing toward more inclusive immigration policies. Several immigrant advocacy groups and lawmakers announced the state can manage to take on more minors. We should accept more immigrant youths who are fleeing some of the most violent nations on Earth and looking for new opportunities to “breathe free.” It’s time for New York, Long Island and students at Hofstra to offer the American Dream to children in desperate need of safety and love.

The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.

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