WOODBURY - Officials say Long Island has received more than 2,000 unaccompanied children who illegally crossed the border into the United States.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement released a list that shows which counties across the United States are currently housing the children. Long Island ranks within the top five, with almost 1,200 living in Suffolk and nearly 1,100 in Nassau.
Patrick Young, program director of the Central American Refugee Center, says it makes sense that they would be placed here.
"Long Island has the fifth largest Central American community in the U.S.,” says Young. “These are children who are fleeing, typically from gang violence, and coming to be reunited with a parent or an older brother or sister."
As News 12 has reported, plans to use a Commack church and an old Bethpage warehouse as temporary shelters for the children caused a tremendous amount of controversy in the communities and never ended up happening.
Officials say the children are being placed in the care of family members who have gone through extensive background checks.
Young says the children were vetted for criminal and medical history before being brought to Long Island. He says they must meet with immigration officials within one month of arriving, adding that just because they are here now, doesn’t mean they'll be allowed to stay.