Plan to House Immigrant Kids Draws Village Ire

COMMACK, N.Y. (AP) -

The possibility that a Long Island church would play host to some of the tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children arriving in the country unaccompanied is causing an uproar in one community.

The Rev. Dennis Walker said that his church in Commack would be able to pay off debts and create jobs if it took in about 40 of the Hispanic children. But neighbors say the plan, details of which have yet to be released or approved, would be dangerous.

“I’m not prejudiced, don’t get me wrong, but you know what, we have our own problems with our own people here,” said Jerry Baggetta, a retiree. “What are we going to have to do? Live like prisoners and lock our doors and everything else?”

Sheryl Cambria, a special-ed teacher, said the idea scares her: “I have two little kids. Who’s to say my house is going to be safe?” Firefighter Michael Cantwell said: “It’s basically going to be a hotel right next to my house.”

Walker said that if housed at his place the children would only leave for medical appointments or other important issues. He said the program could net the church $8,000 to $10,000 a month.

Advocates called the opposition a knee-jerk reaction.

“These are children, for heaven’s sake,” said Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins. “…They aren’t going to be roaming the streets causing havoc.”