SYOSSET, N.Y. — Late Tuesday afternoon, Senate Republicans said that they intend, as a voting bloc, to support legislation that would ensure that immigrant families not be separated when they try to enter the U.S. illegally.
Despite that development, which is not guaranteed passage, the Trump Administration's practice of separating children and parents continues, including at a facility in the tri-state area.
A handful of Central American immigrant children who've been removed from their parents are being held at a juvenile facility on Long Island, and that's got some local residents angry and vocal about the separation practice.
Outside of the office park where New York's two senators have their offices, in Melville, dozens of people gathered early Tuesday afternoon. They carried signs that both protested the separation practice, and which called on passersby to honk their horns in support. Many drivers blew their horns, as protesters raised their voices.
"These are concentration camps!" Dr. Eve Krief said about Border Patrol facilities where about 2,000 children are being held, as the crowd of protesters applauded. "We will not stand for this any longer!"
Among the protesters was Robin Doherty, who'd driven out to Eastern Long Island from her home in Manhattan, with her 2-month-old daughter.
"I'm a new mom," Doherty told PIX11 News. "This is hitting me more than I could ever imagine. I just can't imagine what they're doing, and taking their children away."
Also helping to spark protests like the one in Melville, are recent photos showing children being taken from their parents, as well as other images of separated children being held inside chain-link cages. Also, an audio tape has surfaced this week of children crying and wailing after being separated from their parents.
In addition to those developments, there was confirmation on Tuesday that 70 children who were separated from their asylum seeking parents are being held at facilities in New York State. Eight of those children are at a facility operated by MercyFirst in Syosset. The charity organization confirmed that it’s providing housing and schooling for the eight children, who come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and range in age from six to 12.
MercyFirst has been the subject of investigation by PIX11 News since at least 2016, due to children at the juvenile detention and treatment center fleeing the facility on a regular basis.
"We're asking [our U.S. senators] to visit this facility, and make sure these children are okay," said Shoshana Hershkowitz, a protester, and founder of the group Suffolk Progressives.
The protest group also delivered petitions with hundreds of signatures on Tuesday to New York's two U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, asking them to support Sen. Diane Feinstein’s Keep Families Together Act.
Meanwhile, the president on Tuesday doubled down on his policy of family separation.
“Politically correct or not,” he told a group of small businessmen and businesswomen in a wide-ranging, off-script speech in Washington, “we have a country that needs security, that needs safety, that has to be protected."
No Republicans supported the bill that Feinstein, a Democrat, had introduced. Again, however, Republican senators vowed on Tuesday to pass their own legislation that would end family separation.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who’s also senate minority leader, noted that there are measures being considered in both the House and the Senate, and none is guaranteed to pass. He said that the responsibility to stop family separation relies on the president, whose administration implemented the policy in the first place.
“There are so many obstacles to legislation,” Schumer said. "And when the president can do it with his own pen, it makes no sense” for President Trump to not reverse his policy, said Schumer.