Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘It was like a family secret. But it never really affected me, I was a child.’

West Islip

“We came to the United States in 2001, when I was 9 years old. We migrated from Argentina, like many immigrants, following that American dream of a better life and better opportunities. We came here legally, with a visitor visa. But eventually, that expired. I knew we were undocumented. It was like a family secret.

“But it never really affected me, I was a child. I think when I really started to realize the effects is when I began seeing my friends getting their learner’s permit and first jobs. I had situations where people would say, ‘why don’t you have your learner’s permit?’ and I would say, ‘I don’t want it, I’m not interested,’ but in reality, I was dying to have those things.

I’m tired of being treated like a criminal and running away as if we committed a huge crime when in reality, my parents just came here for a better life.

“When I was around 16 — and this is very common in the Latino community, multiple families are living in the same house, and this is around the time Suffolk County police was working with immigration — they came to our house. I was in school, so was my brother, and my father was working. For the other families there, they were all taken away to a detention center. The only person still there was my mom. The only reason they didn’t take my mom was because my mom was with my little brother. They told her, we’re gonna come back tomorrow and if you’re still here, we’re going to take you away. We had to pack whatever little things we had and leave.

“That was a breaking point for me. It was like, ‘no, that’s it. I’m tired of being treated like a criminal and running away as if we committed a huge crime when in reality, my parents just came here for a better life.’ I really became more open about it and more involved with what it’s like to be a Dreamer.

“From when I was a little girl, I felt like I was put in this world to do something to help others. Maybe not always being the person who represents somebody, but tells them these are your rights, this is what you can do when you encounter this situation. Because I wish someone would have told my family, these are your rights, and this is how you can handle this situation. I want to do that for other families.”

‘We’ve been doing it a long time, so most people know us. We’ve become the old timers. We started not knowing anything and now everybody comes to us.’

West Islip

“We went to the Garden of Eve Chickapalooza and that’s how we got our first chickens. You pay $10 for the class and got a free chicken. And then it just kept growing. Two became three within a week. That became six and before you know it, we have about, I don’t know, 70? It’s hard to count now. Sometimes we lose some, sometimes we gain some.

“Our neighbors have chickens and a whole bunch of people in the neighborhood do too. The Long Island Chicken Keepers Group has thousands of members. Everybody’s really tight-knit. They’re also kind of secretive. Most people we know would never admit they have chickens. Keepers get blamed for rodent problems, so most don’t want people to know they have them otherwise you become the neighborhood pariah. You have to keep them clean.

“We’ve always had a lot of animals. It’s good to have animals around with kids too. I think kids with animals are more compassionate. They learn nurturing skills. The kids are always out tending and collecting eggs and feeding them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Some of the chickens are more friendly than others. At times, we’ll handle a chicken nonstop and it’s never friendly. Others are super friendly. You get super attached to the friendly ones.

“They can live 10 years. A lot of people will cull them when they stop laying. We don’t do that. We just figure they’ve worked hard for us making eggs, the least they could have is a nice life and hang out in the backyard eating bugs. We don’t eat our chickens. We do eat chicken, just not our chickens. They’re our pets. We’re keeping pets that lay eggs.

When people buy eggs from us, they want to see something unique, not something they can buy from the supermarket.

“Different breeds lay more than others. We have a whole lot of blue and green layers. When people buy eggs from us, they want to see something unique, not something they can buy from the supermarket. The black copper maran lays an egg that’s chocolate colored, we have those too. We use as many as we can and then we sell them to the neighborhood for $5 a dozen. In the spring and summer, we get two or three dozen a day. And we sell them as fast as we collect them.

“We’ve traveled with chickens. We have a house in Florida, and we brought chickens from there. There were breeds we couldn’t get up here. One of them was a rooster, she would just perch on my seat as we were driving on the interstate. The car stunk to holy hell by the time we got back.

“We’ve been doing it a long time, so most people know us. We’ve become the old timers. We started not knowing anything and now everybody comes to us.”