In a Time of Criminal Crisis, Long Island UAC Placements on Track for Four-Year High

Despite dwindling numbers of unaccompanied minors (UACs) showing up at the southwest border, the placement of UACs by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) on MS-13 crime-plagued Long Island is on track to top a four-year high.

According to figures just released by ORR, for the first six months of FY 2017, 915 UACs already have been placed in Suffolk County, while 651 have been placed in adjoining Nassau County. These figures demonstrate a higher placement rate than in previous years for the two suburban New York City counties.

In 2014, Nassau County received 1,446 and Suffolk 1,600. There was a significant dip in 2015, with Nassau County receiving 486 and Suffolk County 637, but the placements rebounded in 2016, with Nassau County receiving 1,219 and Suffolk County 1,472. If the current numbers continue at this pace Nassau might see 1,302 placements and Suffolk County 1,830.

These youths are not dispersed throughout the two counties. The majority of eligible sponsors are concentrated in the gang-vulnerable communities of Hempstead, Freeport, Brentwood, and Central Islip. This puts these communities further at risk for tragedies like that the quadruple homicide of four young men in Central Islip in April.

The compelling concern is that these two counties have been the hardest hit this year with MS-13 homicides. Continuing to place children in these communities that are barely coming to grips with the influx is not only a public safety issue, but also a personal safety issue to the very children the placement services are intended to protect, some of whom have been both forced into the gang, were already in the gang, or were victimized by the gang. One Brentwood school official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me that if they are forced to continue to enroll UACs they will quickly run out of room in the school for native-born children.

"We just don't have the space or resources and they still keep coming," the official said.