- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — This middle-class Long Island community an hour from New York City and 2,000 miles from the Mexican border has become an unlikely flash point in the national debate over illegal immigration, with Hispanics beaten, harassed and evicted in recent weeks.

For more than a decade, immigrants from Mexico or Central America have been drawn to Long Island by the prospect of jobs. Many stand on street corners in Farmingville, waiting for contractors, landscapers and others to offer them a day’s work at about $10 an hour. Then at night they go back to their illegally overcrowded single-family homes.

The immigrants, many of whom are believed to have entered the country illegally, have been source of tension among longtime residents since at least the late 1990s. But things have gotten worse this summer — so bad that the head of the Mexican Consulate in New York City said Farmingville was “clearly a red zone after the Arizona border” in the abuse of immigrants.

In late June, two men were charged with a hate crime for purportedly berating a Mexican woman and her husband as the couple backed their van out of a parking lot. Within weeks, two more persons were accused of yelling racial epithets and throwing a bottle at a Hispanic day laborer.

That same day, four persons demonstrating at a 7-Eleven in support of day laborers were arrested when they surrounded an immigration foe’s car and refused to let him out.

Police are also investigating an attack in nearby Patchogue on a 61-year-old Ecuadorean man. He was beaten by three men who supposedly asked if he had a green card as proof of valid immigration.

The tension was ratcheted up in mid-June, when officials in the town of Brookhaven, which includes Farmingville, and Suffolk County police began evicting men from overcrowded houses, citing health and safety violations. Dozens of people were packed into the one-family houses.

So far, at least six houses have been shut by authorities, leaving more than 100 men homeless, advocates said.

Advocates complained the immigrants have been thrown into the streets without warning. One advocate called it “ethnic cleansing.”

“Many local officials have punted, saying this is a federal issue and we can’t do anything about it. Well, there are some things you can do,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said. “Crack down on those contractors, crack down on illegal housing and create a better relationship with immigration officials.”

Farmingville saw immigration-related violence a few years ago. In 2000, two Mexican men were beaten by two locals who promised them work. On July 4, 2003, a Mexican family barely escaped after teens set their house ablaze by shooting fireworks through a window. But tensions appeared to ease after three of the assailants were sent to prison — two of them for 25 years to life.

Residents are largely cheering the crackdown on immigrants.

“I think they are doing a terrific job,” said Terry Sherwood, who contended that residents in the packed houses often drink late into the night and urinate and defecate on lawns and back yards. “I don’t care who they are, what color they are. I don’t care where they come from.”

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