Officials, Advocates Look For Illegal Immigration Answers

With tension running high over immigration on the East End, officials weigh in on where solutions lie.

With recent on the growing Hispanic population on the East End boosting tension over illegal immigration, local officials and activists are working on solutions to an issue that is clouded with anger, misinformation and heartbreak.

"It is long past time for comprehensive immigration reform with increased enforcement of our borders, a crackdown on crimes committed by those in the country illegally, and an earned path to legal status for those who are ready to be responsible members of our communities," Rep. Tim Bishop, D-NY, said. "Misrepresenting reform as amnesty only perpetuates the unsustainable status quo, which is a de facto amnesty."

Bishop has long espoused a path to legal status for, not deportation of, the scores of illegal immigrants who have families in the United States — and without whom, many claim, the local agricultural community would be crippled.

“Without a long-term resolution on immigration reform and a guest worker program, it places Long Island agriculture in a perilous situation,” Joseph Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said. “Farmers, vineyards, tourism, hospitality and building trades all depend upon an available work force, and they would like it to be a legal workforce. This issue affects our entire East End economy.”

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley was at the center of controversy in recent years over a proposed hiring site on a parcel of land on Aldrich Lane, which was purchased with Community Preservation Funds. At the time, Epley said a hiring site would be a way to organize the day laborers who dot the village landscape, seeking work while providing a humanitarian approach to a problem that ties the hands of local officials who cannot effect long-term solutions.

“Nothing is going to change until the federal government defines an immigration policy,” Epley said, adding that letters come in from “people that are angry.”

The letters, he said, are “reflective of a failed immigration system.”

“The system we have today does not work. We need changes, and true leadership out of Washington D.C.” he said.

The heart of the issue, Epley said, lies in temporary work visas that allow individuals to travel back and forth from the United States to their own countries.

“The pathway to citizenship already exists,” he said. “They don’t need citizenship. They just need work visas.”

Most immigrants who seek work in the United States, Epley said, would like to be able to travel and see their families. Epley further stated that the services provided by day laborers are critical.

“They’re doing jobs that, for the most part, the average American doesn’t want to do,” he said.

Immigration is not a new issue, he said. “If you go back and look at our history, 100 years ago it was the Irish standing on the docks waiting to be picked up.”

But, he said, “It’s time for us to address this because it is impacting our school systems, our health care.”

Recent Census data, Epley said, “has really stirred up anger. When you think about what’s going to happen over the next 40 years, it changes the face of a nation.”

Southamptonites get upset "because they see the guys standing on the street,” Epley said, adding that the bottom line is a that a 1980s Supreme Court decision rendered loitering laws unconstitutional.

“They have the right to stand there,” he said. “If they were begging, it would be different, but they aren’t doing that.”

Epley said some day laborers have gang ties. “We’ve picked these people up, but the reality is, it’s a very small number.”

Quality of life issues, however, such as littering and public urination, proliferate, he said, another reason answers are needed.

Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate said with a sluggish economy, many immigrants who cannot work want to go home but can’t afford the trip.

“There’s not a lot of work right now," she said. "These men and women are suffering. They’re skimping and some people still can’t feed their children.”

To that end, a program exists to send people back to their countries. But with the summer work season kicking in, she said many will go home in October and November.

Sister Margaret agrees that answers lie in the federal arena. “The government has to stop this nonsense, straighten it out,” she said. “Either you solve the issue or you just continue this crazy way of living.”

She said the misconception is individuals choose to enter the country illegally, when in truth it is virtually impossible for many to enter the United States and become citizens legally.

Immigration attorney Pat Young, who spoke recently at a meeting of the Neighbors in Support of Immigrants group in Hampton Bays, said the path for an individual who wishes to enter the United States legally “is extremely difficult.”

She said there are three ways to enter the country legally.

A United States citizen can apply for a spouse, a child, a brother or sister, or parents. A permanent resident with a green card can apply for a spouse and child. “It’s pretty narrow in terms,” she said.

The second means of entering the country involves employment, but generally an individual must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and a United States business must apply for an individual and prove a shortage of workers in that field living in the United States.

Finally, Young said, refugees, who can demonstrate persecution in their own country, can enter. Currently, refugees from Central Africa and Iran are applying.

Young also set out to shatter the misconception that illegal immigrants are able to avail themselves of social services. While children born in the United States are able to receive such services, those in the country illegally are only entitled to emergency Medicaid, “if life and limb is in danger and someone has been hit by a car, and an ambulance brings the person to the hospital.”

She also addressed why someone in the country illegally, who is stopped for a traffic infraction, is not sent home.

“It depends on how the local police handle the case,” Young said. “In many jurisdictions, for minor infractions, if someone is stopped but not convicted the information is not turned over to immigration authorities. In Suffolk County it often is; that’s why people stopped for traffic violations end up deported.”

But fear of deportation “drives a wedge between the immigrant community and law enforcement, because they are perceived as enforcing immigration rather than criminal law,” she said.

“You don’t want people to fear local authorities such as teachers, hospital workers, and local police officers," she said and added that anti-gang initiatives in Nassau County have been more effective because local authorities have the cooperation of the immigrant community.”

She said the first step toward solving the problem lies in “bringing people out of the shadows. You want them to identify themselves.” She suggested a probationary period should be given, with a path toward legalization. And, at the same time, “proper controls at the borders” are critical.

Finally, Young said a legal-worker visa system that would allow employers to bring workers in legally is necessary. “Right now, people are here illegally and can’t go back because they’re afraid they won’t be allowed to return. This encourages people to stay permanently in an illegal situation — exactly what you don’t want.”

Bettybb April 25, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Sorry mate, but you are spewing the racist pro illegal immigration for Latinos drivel. Americans are ranked, in the world, as the number one most productive people. We work. And not only do we work harder than anyone else, we also work smarter. That means we are educated and use our brains. Check out the wonderful country so called hard working Mexicans have created! Crime. Corruption. No economy. A failed state. Compare that to the country hard and smart working Americans have created... the greatest country in the world. But then again, we believe in the rule of law and equality. Illegal immigrants values = what law? ..do whatever you can get away with!
Bettybb April 25, 2011 at 06:23 PM
It is the legal immigrants who are the real victims here. Good, decent people who follow the law and their good, decent American families who wait for them to be allowed in. Then you have ilegal aliens who waltz into our country, break our laws, take our social benefits, steal American jobs, and their American families who facilitiate this criminal behavior.
najnaj April 25, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Hey folks thats why we need COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM! Washington and elected officials needs a decent talk how to solve this magnitude of illegal people who already here. Politicians use this issue to gain political points. Federal Govt. must act now!
Virginia Whitelaw April 25, 2011 at 11:49 PM
I agree with all of the above. It's got to stop. Illegals need to be sent back. Having all their children here is not helping us. They send all their money back to their country. Maybe have some citizens arrests to get things moving?
Virginia Whitelaw April 26, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Also the pay of $10-$12 per hour is the norm where I live, Americans of all walks of life work these jobs. Old, Young, Students...I have, also.
Boo April 26, 2011 at 02:10 AM
This article is drivel. I am so tired of hearing pro illegal immigration people say that illegals get no benefits. How can the parents not benefit when the children get welfare? Welfare provides a home, oil for heat, food and clothing, medical care and schooling. How do the illegal parents not benefit from that? Many also work and their income is hidden from social services so its untaxed gravy. A whole undergound economy is sucking us suckers dry.
oonald April 26, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Thomas Lynch April 26, 2011 at 11:34 AM
Again Bishop trying to increase his voter base since the taxpayers and citizen voters are likely tossing him out next election, since he is out of touch. We have plenty of laws, let's enforce them? That's why the designationis ILLEGAL ALIEN. There are plenty of sad American legal taxpaying citizen stories to match the anchor baby, multi person housing no medical insurance but driving a CAR illegally and no insurnace or license stories the liberals and pro illegals can muster. INS and the Dept of Homeland Security needs to get off their asses, stop cavity searching 8 year olds and deport the 12 million folks who are sucking down the infrastructure (police, health services, schools, etc) FOR FREE. Get in line at the BORDER like my ancestors did (one who was a US Congressman after legally immigrating in the 1800s!!!! When our unemployement is over 10% there shoudl be an immediate CAP on imigration as well back to the 1960s limits.........AFTER the current illegals are addressed.
steve April 26, 2011 at 12:09 PM
When did we lose our common sense? Our Government, has allowed the invasion of 30 million criminals in direct violation of Article IV, Section IV of our Constitution. they force American tax payers to pay Billions to provide Welfare, Prison cells, Educate the invaders children, free medical care,massive document fraud, & are destroying our schools, hospitals, communities, culture while Robbing, Raping, Killing & Assaulting American Citizens WAKE UP PEOPLE! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9IGKRzdzZ8&feature=player_embedded .youtube.com/watch?v=tsH8xvjTAlo .youtube.com/watch?v=Btj6IeOFkis&feature=player_embedded http://immigrationcounters.com/ .ojjpac.org/memorial.asp .immigrationshumancost.org/ .newswithviews.com/Wooldridge/frosty580.htm .youtube.com/watch?v=muw22wTePqQ http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/07/02/immigration-costs-fair-amnesty-educations-costs-reform/ http://www.rense.com/general81/dtli.htm http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=41045 http://www.cairco.org/econ/econ.html http://www.diggersrealm.com/mt/archives/003335.html Every Non-representative including obama and holder should be IMPEACHED! for not upholding the oath of office they swore to defend the Constitution! If these clowns were to do their job, this would all be a Moot point! Anchors and their criminal parents go, period, and cut the phony tears, you knew you were breaking the law when you crossed the border. shut down any business hiring illegal labor. Oh and owners go to jail. Got a better idea? Lets hear it!
David D'Agostino April 26, 2011 at 01:16 PM
It is just this type of nonsensical, hyperbolic, hysteria that makes it so difficult to have a real conversation about immigration in this country. I hope this madman's rant is deleted for its extreme prejudice and vitriol.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 26, 2011 at 02:25 PM
This report is not on a meeting. It was a series of individual interviews.
Boo April 26, 2011 at 11:54 PM
The gov't better get a reality check and listen to the people before the people start taking the law into their own hands. This powder keg is gonna blow.
oonald April 27, 2011 at 02:45 AM
Follow the rules April 27, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Legal Immigration is important and what America is about. The illegals that are here are disturbing and it's upsetting. There are people here not paying taxes, working, driving and even owning stores, real estate, etc. We can't allow this to be happening. If they aren't legal and have done the proper things to be legal and help our economy, they don't belong here. They certainly shouldn't be driving, owning stores and having anchor babies to manipulate the system and take advantage of Americans. What about sending American dollars to their country...this concerns me as well.....
Follow the rules April 27, 2011 at 04:12 AM
Anchor babies!
Linda Slezak April 28, 2011 at 05:11 PM
It is so difficult to counter bias, prejudice and false information about immigration because people who are opposed to immigrants do not want facts, they just want to feel self-righteous about their beliefs. When our grandparents and ancestors came to this country, immigration was open and legal to all - now it is not.
David D'Agostino April 28, 2011 at 07:55 PM
I couldn't agree more. Thanks
william mcneil April 28, 2011 at 10:40 PM
As a frequent travler to Mexico, I can add this. Their rules are simple. You must be a Mexican Citizen to hold a job there, to own a boat, to own waterfront property, to own a plane. I have 180 days, then i have to leave. Now, at least they are open about being corrupt. Here all our politicians seem to be in denial. Our corruption is so nicely worded as donators, lobbyist, or research group. The farm labor started in California back in the 70s. They would come for the season, then leave. But look at how good we taught them. I am in the fire dept. and I cant tell you how many houses we have been to where there were locked rooms etc. This is the landlords issue. All they care about is the rent money. Now, as far as them paying taxes, if they pay rent, then the property owner is paying the taxes for them. However, the true point is this. In my opinion, we need to punish the employers who hire them. In Europe, they pay 10,000 Euros per offense. Now, to me I say if there is no job for them, then they will hop their way back, or commit a crime to get deported.
Boo April 29, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Linda, Don't you also feel self-righteous about your beliefs? Or do you think you are in the right and most of the rest of the people in this country are wrong? If you want to make immigration legal, work at it. Until it's legal, it is illegal and therefore, people who enter the country illegally are breaking our laws. It's hard enough to assimilate large groups of immigrants without adding fuel to the fire in the knowledge that they are not really supposed to be here. Make them all pay taxes and stop sending money out of the country and us "bias" people will have less to complain about. If they are legal and have to pay taxes, some of them, I suspect, will go away. Right now, the deal is super sweet. Work off the books, get welfare for the kids which, by the way, benefits parents as well, and send money back home to your other wife and kids. Why, if Mexico had the same deal, we could all go there and leave America to the bleeding heart liberals and the immigrants. Too bad Mexico isnt as brainless as America!
steve April 29, 2011 at 06:45 PM
here here, life is cherished, but blatent disregard for our laws,get on our safety net for OUR people, disregard our rules, take advantage of our system, THIS is what they are doing with the help of the government that is FOR the PEOPLE! ? we are CHUMPS@!~ they take complete advantage!
RSA April 29, 2011 at 10:40 PM
Linda, I am an immigrant myself. Having come from Europe in the 70's I later became a naturalized US citizen. No one here is arguing about "legal" immigration, but you don't begin to address the fact that we are being overrun by illegal hoardes who can just cross our borders at will, settle down wherever they wish, are unaccounted for, and which we absolutely cannot support. Have you any idea what I (and others like me) had to go through to come to this country legally and how long it took? Let's be fair to everyone here.
rottenpunk April 30, 2011 at 03:39 AM
RSA, do you have any idea what those you refer to as the "hoardes" have to go through to become a legal citizen today? Do you have any idea how much longer it takes, how much more difficult it is? Do you know how many of them actually came here legally, on work visas, with dreams of becoming citizens? How can someone who came here as an immigrant have such ignorance of immigrant issues? And to Boo, do you know why people do not go to Mexico looking for work? Because there is none. By the way, do you think every Latino that comes to America is a Mexican or is that simply your catch-all for anyone who speaks Spanish and has brown skin? Do you know how many Polish, Irish, German, Italian, Asian "illegals" there are in this country? You do not have an issue with "illegals" you have a issue with Latinos. Hey, Steve, the immigrants came here because there was an unquenchable thirst for their labor and they needed work, not because they thought it would be swell to be hated by every ignoramus in the country.
Boo April 30, 2011 at 12:13 PM
Steve I will have an issue with Latinos until they stop coming here illegally. Please tell us all how many illlegal Italians,Poles, etc. are here and also give us the number of illegal Latinos for a comparison. And by the way, the Latinos are from way too many countries for me to list them all here. And they pretty much all come thru Mexico!
Boo April 30, 2011 at 12:14 PM
So Sorry Steve I mean RSA!
RSA April 30, 2011 at 04:41 PM
"Rottenpunk" and "Linda", and all: I'm sure you are decent, well-meaning individuals, as I am. My point is that we should not be allowing unchecked immigration / migration into this country. I'm all for legal immigration, from Mexico or anywhere, but everyone needs to go through the proper channels, like many before them have, including myself. Would you leave the door to your home wide open for anyone to come in uninvited, or might you exhibit a more sensible approach when deciding who and how many can enter? Or, when do you stop adding weight to a sinking boat? And if you don't think we have extremely serious issues in this country at this time, well, then I have nothing more to say to you.
Heather May 01, 2011 at 09:04 AM
Just so everyone knows, the reason so many people come here illegally is because it is cheaper, and quicker, to pay someone to bring them here. Not to mention the thousands of people who have families, including natural born citizens, here. I myself cannot wait until this "precious" country you all covet becomes a war zone, then when you all are tryoing to run somewhere, the Mexican are going to say, "But we don't want no "Schtinking" immigrants here. And I'm going to laugh my ass off while you all suffer. you do not know what it's like to live in a third world country, but soon will.
Boo May 01, 2011 at 02:11 PM
If we want to try and make a difference, we have to open our mouths. Start by calling the Town Building Inspector to find out if those annoying rental houses in your neighborhood have the required town rental permits. Why let the landlords get away without following that rule! The town will check on your complaint and the owner will be fined if they don't have the permit. Then get on the code enforcement people to do something about the 10 unrelated people living in the house. You know it's unsafe. My neighbor had so many men living in his rental house (20 I'd say)the cesspool kept overflowing and the tenants took to relieving themselves in the yard. It took persistence but eventually CE gave the landlord a summons. Now only 10 people live there. Oh well, at least the cesspool doesn't overflow. We can all work on making small differences by insisting the local laws are adhered to. It's our responsibility.
Boo May 01, 2011 at 02:25 PM
Check out Riverhead Patch for the article on the men who ran the brothel in Riverside. One of the criminals lives in Hampton Bays but I notice the April 26th article was not posted on Hampton Bays Patch? At least on where I could find it. Since it involves someone from HB I am asking why it wasn't posted. But HB Patch posts things crime reports from Miller Place-Rocky Point Patch. I find this very telling.............
Joseph Pinciaro (Editor) May 01, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Hello - Thanks for the note. I just cross published a couple of the stories on HB-WH Patch, you should be able to find them here now. Thanks again. - Joe
E. Trillo May 01, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Just so everyone knows, this country is one of the most generous countries in the world. Who else would allow more than 20 million illegal aliens sneak into their country and avail themselves of the free education, medical services and food programs that were designed to help the less fortunate citizens who were born in this country or came here by following the immigration laws. The problem today is we can't afford to be as generous as we have been in the past. We are borrowing the money to pay for all these services from countries like China by selling them treasury bonds. Eventually someone will have to pay these loans back. We are mortgaging our future to pay for programs we can't afford. If this country is to continue to be one of the greatest countries on earth we have to learn to live within our means. We should be defending our boarders not fighting three wars in the middle east and we should ensure people who come here to work come via legal guest worker programs and that thes guests go home when the job they here hired to do ends.


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