By Mark Hallum
Queens residents turned out by the hundreds Monday night to march against the White House policy of separating undocumented children from their families and detaining them in specialized facilities.
The march, organized by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), started at St. Sebastian’s Roman Catholic Church at 58-02 Roosevelt Ave. in Woodside and ended at Noonan Playground in Sunnyside.
Signs advocated keeping families together while promoting #QueensValues. Many in the march spoke English as a second language.
“Despite what President Trump would say, we know that immigrants are welcome here in Queens, refugees are welcome here and families belong together” Van Bramer said. “I’m sure like me, all of you were horrified by the images of children being ripped away from their mothers and their families and being sent away and detained thousands of miles in some cases from the very parents they need to be with. We have a president who talks about immigrants infesting our country, invading our country. He is a racist. He hates immigrants and he must not get away with this.”
At the march were representatives from SEIU 32BJ, Make the Road NY, Emerald Isle Immigration Center, Woodside on the Move, Jacob Riis Settlement House, a number of Girl Scouts from the area and state Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth).
Leandra Requena told her story about crossing the Mexican border at 25 into the United States with her 5-year-old daughter rather than allowing her young family to “suffer” in a violent country.
“When I see [the children in detainment], it breaks my heart and I say how cruel, how despicable is this president? He doesn’t have humanity. He doesn’t have any kind of values,” Requena said.
Van Bramer chose Roosevelt Avenue through Woodside and Sunnyside for the diversity of the two neighborhoods, especially their Hispanic immigrants.
“Donald Trump may have been raised in this borough,” Van Bramer continued to the sounds of boos. “But what he says and believes in his heart is not what we believe in Queens.”
Trump, one of five children, lived with his family in Jamaica Estates.
Judy Zangwill from Sunnyside Community Services said many immigrants are represented by the group, which is a senior center but also has programs for all ages.
Jose Leon, a senior staff attorney with Catholic Migration Services, said he was appalled by the images of children in detention and that the organization he represents will continue fighting for immigrants.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall