Let’s Keep the Springs Debate Above Animosity

Ethnic animosity has, unfortunately, turned up in an ugly way in advance of Tuesday’s vote on the proposed renovation of the overcrowded Springs School. While hardly speaking for everyone in the district, a few opponents of the construction project have sought to bolster their arguments by dragging anti-immigrant sentiment into the debate. This cannot go unchallenged.

It should be a source of community shame that a handful of people seeking to block the $17-million bond vote have tried to amplify ethnic divisions. Questions about the plans and the full cost are fair game, and opinions are strong. But some, and notably the most-recent Republican candidate for East Hampton Town supervisor, Manny Vilar, have resorted to uncalled-for Trumpist dog whistles, implying that a significant portion of Springs residents are illegal immigrants who may at some point soon be rounded up. This is extraordinarily irresponsible rhetoric, inappropriately echoed by the new town Republican committee chairman, Amos Goodman. 

The suggestion made by Mr. Vilar and others, that tougher immigration enforcement will cause a decline in the Springs School student population, is a reprehensible assumption because it is based on the upsupported notion that because some students come from Spanish-speaking households, a number of them must be in the country illegally. Sadly, with a president calling immigrants “bad hombres” and fantasizing about a “big, beautiful wall,” this kind of speech has become more prevalent.

This is a moment when cities, towns, and hamlets across the United States should be working to become more inclusive, not less. Communities should welcome the many immigrants who come here for opportunity and, especially on the South Fork, who provide so much of the labor on which much of the economy is based. Instead of hyping divisions, East Hampton’s public figures should speak out to push Washington toward sensible immigration policies. 

It needs also to be pointed out that even if the critics are right that the school-age population growth is tapering off (which we doubt), the Springs School is at present several hundred kids above its capacity of roughly 350 students. 

Vote against the Springs bond, if you feel you must for reasons of cost or design, but do not be seduced by racist rhetoric suggesting that Springs’s children — whatever the color of their skin or language spoken by their parents — deserve any less than the best possible place to learn.