Fear of deportation for Latinos in Brentwood

Victor Salas, a 35-year-old Peruvian who works in Brentwood, knows Latinos in the town who may be deported and says many people are afraid. "It's comfortable here [Brentwood] because you can get your food, your types of clothes, anything like you need from your country. So it doesn't make you feel...away, too much," he said.Victor Salas, a 35-year-old Peruvian who works in Brentwood, knows Latinos in the town who may be deported and says many people are afraid. "It's comfortable here [Brentwood] because you can get your food, your types of clothes, anything like you need from your country. So it doesn't make you feel...away, too much," he said.

By Giovanni Ortiz and Taylor Ha

It’s quiet in Laundry Castle. Quiet, minus the roar bellowing from the two rows of silver washing machines on either side of the laundromat. Bland, minus the prominent Spanish translations adorning the walls and washing machines – “caliente” wash for white clothes, “templado” for colors and “frio” for bright ones. And peaceful, except for 19-year-old Evelyn Cruz who is hustling to get her laundry done. Her mother and a family friend sit along with her to help load washers and dryers on the slow Sunday afternoon. As she watches the clothes spin, worries about her mother, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador who is now at risk of being deported, rest at the back of her mind.

“She’s keeping the faith that that’s not gonna happen,” Cruz, who was born in the U.S., says.

Cruz and her family are part of the approximately 60,000 Latinos in Brentwood, New York who possibly face life-changing consequences, namely deportation of illegal immigrants, during the next four years under the Trump administration.

More than 68 percent of Brentwood’s population is Hispanic or Latino, according to a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, but the number of illegal immigrants in Brentwood is unknown. About 11 million unauthorized immigrants, of whom 52 percent were Mexican, were in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.

In last Sunday’s interview with “60 Minutes,” Trump vowed to deport up to three million undocumented immigrants, namely those with criminal records. However, he also mentioned that those who are not criminals, “terrific people,” might also be vulnerable to deportation.

Elmer Flores, a Brentwood resident, has more than 20 Latino family members, friends and acquaintances that are also illegal immigrants. In light of Trump’s presidency and some of his violent supporters, he, his mother and stepfather recently debated whether Trump’s presidency would cause Latinos to become more tentative to showcase their ethnicity.

“Latinos look out for Latinos,” Flores said. “Nobody’s afraid to show that we’re still Latino, that we’re still minorities in the town and we represent that town.”

In areas that are heavily populated by Latinos, things like hate speech and hate crime are not as prevalent, Alex Nogales, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a media advocacy and civil rights organization to advance Latinos, said. But he also mentioned that in other parts of the country that are less Latino-populated, there may be more Latinos who hesitate to flaunt their ethnicity.

“Who wants to be signaled out as someone that can be beaten, that can be attacked?” Nogales, a Mexican-American, said.

Post-Election Life for Brentwood’s Latinos from Taylor Ha on Vimeo.

Some Brentwood residents are more nonchalant about Trump as President-elect, like 23-year-old Latisha Evans, who neither minds Trump as future president nor his declaration to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S., mainly for a personal reason.

“All the things that’s been going on in Brentwood, it’s from gang violence, which is from immigrants,” Evans, whose brother was shot and killed by criminals, who were incidentally immigrants, said. “So I personally don’t mind that wall at all.”

Although there are approximately 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., only 177,960 of the undocumented immigrants deported last year were convicted criminals, according to a 2014 Immigration and Customs Enforcement report. 73,665 inmates in state and federal prisons, or 5 percent of the total prison population, are not U.S. citizens, according to a 2014 Bureau of Judicial Statistics report.

“It remains unclear how Mr. Trump’s policies will impact the Latino community in Brentwood, Central Islip and for that matter all throughout Suffolk County,” Monica R. Martinez, Suffolk County Legislator, said in an e-mail.

“But one thing is certain: All residents in my district can rest assure that I’m resolute to keep fighting for social justice, better economic conditions and better quality of life regardless of what Washington dictates.”