A tale of two families and Long Island’s changing face
Long Island’s emerging immigrant population has vastly changed from 40 years ago. Then, many migrants from European countries traveled to the suburbs to settle in the United States. Over time, immigrants from Latin America and the Middle East started to move to the region, causing a political and social divide in Long Island towns.
Many immigrants who have been in the United States for two decades or longer have a different perspective on politics and the “American Dream” compared to new arrivals. Long Island has slowly transformed from predominantly white suburbs into a more complex landscape with flourishing cultural pockets, where residents with diverse backgrounds live side by side.
Despite similar stories of migration, there is a vast difference in political perspectives within the immigrant population. Some groups from the community see themselves as righteous immigrants, while others feel excluded. These divisions have intensified following the election of President Donald Trump who campaigned with an “America First” rhetoric.
This photo essay acts as a window for the viewer—a more focused examination into this divide.
First, we meet Rosa and Rosario Sblendorio, Italians who have resided in Oceanside, N.Y., for more than 40 years. For much of her life, Rosa lived in Section Eight housing and depended on financial assistance from the government to help with her medical issues. Rosa became a U.S. citizen a decade after she moved to the country and has two daughters.
Rosa spends most of her days cleaning her home, preparing dinner for her husband and attending her local Catholic church. Her husband, Rosario, works at the community college as the head of the maintenance department and enjoys gambling on horse races at Off Track Betting sites. Both said they voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and support his stance on immigration and other foreign policies.
Next, we meet Mohammed and Zarlasht Siddiq. The Afghan couple has lived in East Northport, N.Y., for 35 years and have five children. Their daughter, Hajera, helps translate for them. Mohammed earned his U.S. citizenship a few years after he arrived in the country. Zarlasht is currently studying for the citizenship test.
Zarlasht spends a lot of her time cooking and attending the local mosque with her husband. Mohammed said that he voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and they both support her views on immigration and various policies.
As for their millennial daughter, Hajera, 25, said that living in a very pro-Trump town leaves her slightly worried. Even before Trump issued executive orders restricting immigration, Hajera experienced three incidents of racism, including two at the Northport train station.
Now, Hajera has made the personal choice to take off her hijab and let down her hair, despite her religious beliefs. Although she now refuses to take the train to work, Hajera continues to fight for Muslim-Americans through her political activism.
Tensions have risen in the country since Trump’s executive order in January to ban incoming refugees and immigrants from certain countries from entering the United States. Long Island is no exception. Various protests and educational forums have popped up in parts of the area to rally against the decision-making happening in Washington and to help immigrants understand their rights.
While these two families are very different, they also have a lot in common. Both have different views into what American life should look and be like, but also contribute to Long Island’s continuously changing face.