Letters to the Editor: Immigration 03.02.17

Our readers comments



February 20, 2017

To the Editor:

After reading about East Hampton Town declining the directive on immigration, I felt gratitude. It’s a privilege to live among compassionate, loving people. 


Case Against the Ban


February 25, 2017

Dear David,

I’d like to respond to Paul Giardina’s comments in his recent letter, specifically those directed toward me. 

First, I’d like to thank Mr. Giardina for his service to our country. 

I’d also like to thank him for helping to make the case against the ban. Mr. Giardina argues passionately for robust screening of immigrants in order to protect our country from would-be terrorists — on this we agree.

He supports his call for thorough screening by reminding Ms. Berman she has no idea how many terrorists have been stopped by our immigration professionals. Exactly. It seems that our screening is working very well indeed. What the president put into place, and Congressman Zeldin supported, was not a screening process, but an actual ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries cited as “countries of particular concern.” Interesting that the country Saudi Arabia, where the majority of 9/11 terrorists Mr. Giardina invokes were from was not included in the ban. 

There have been zero terrorist threats or actions in the United States from immigrants of the countries listed in the ban. So where is the reasonable expectation Mr. Giardina mentions? The facts seem to point to an elaborate and timely vetting process that is already working and can be reviewed and adjusted if needed without a discriminatory, un-American action like the ban.

Fortunately, this is the position that the courts upheld.

The ban wrongly painted refugees as terrorists. The refugees are the ones running from terrorists (including ISIL, Assad, and Trump’s B.F.F. Putin). They are in the same situation as millions of Jews who fled persecution in World War II. The Star was right to call Lee Zeldin out as someone of Jewish background for supporting the religious discrimination toward refugees in desperate need of safe haven. Our country was built on opening our arms to immigrants fleeing from oppression or simply coming here for the promise of a better life — that is our deepest core value.

Since Mr. Giardina asks me to consider the safety of our citizenry, which I do, I would ask him to also consider the safety of our military, which a ban like this only puts at greater risk than necessary. 

Yes, let’s keep our country safe. Especially from irresponsible, illegal, inhumane ideas like this now-stricken-down ban.


Fear in the Audience


February 23, 2017

Dear Mr. Rattray:

I was pleased to read the article in the Feb. 23 issue of The Star headlined, “Town: Police Will Not Act as ICE Agents.” I noted the town board meeting from Feb. 16 at which people came to address the issue. I want your readers to be further advised of a meeting that took place on Feb. 21, at Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Bridgehampton.

That meeting was convened within 24 hours through social media within the Hispanic community and area clergy, perhaps others. I learned of it from Cantor-Rabbi Debra Stein of the Jewish Center, and went to the meeting at 7 that evening, as did the cantor. The large sanctuary was jammed with hundreds of people, two to three deep standing in the side aisles and in the vestibule from the front entrance. 

Over 90 percent of the audience was Hispanic, mostly young men and women. They had come in response to the invitation to meet for the purpose of learning how to respond to the recent new rules issued by Homeland Security. Several guest speakers had been called in at short notice. These were immigration attorneys from New York and on Long Island, and at least one social service representative, also from New York. I do not have their names. 

The proceedings were in Spanish, with occasional breaks in English to keep everyone up on what was being said. Cards had also been distributed to anyone in the audience who wished to write a question, to be answered later.

The lead speaker, an immigration lawyer from New York, began by acknowledging the fear people in the audience have in the face of the new rules. He said the purpose of the meeting was to address those fears by helping people be prepared. The audience was informed of what their rights are, also the restrictions on ICE raids, noting in particular the difference between administrative warrants and criminal warrants. 

A booklet has subsequently been printed by the Rev. Gerardo Romo-Garcia titled “Know Your Rights!” I received a copy through the clericus network, in particular from Cantor-Rabbi Stein. Mr. Romo-Garcia is minister at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Amagansett, and works closely with the Very Rev. Denis Brunelle, rector at St. Luke’s. The Rev. Scot McCachren, the new minister at East Hampton Presbyterian Church, also attended this Tuesday meeting.

The leaders of the forum also told the audience that it was helpful to know who in town is available to be of help. The scattering of non-Hispanic white men and women in the audience are among those who are also concerned. I knew or recognized several with whom I have been involved in various rights issues for over 30 years.

As has been reported in news media and in television news reporting, the new rules from Homeland Security are far broader in scope than what had been the case in the Obama administration. Anyone can access this information, but I draw attention to the last of the criteria for deportation, which as a catch-all is sweeping in its reach. 

They are subject to deportation who “in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.” All that is necessary is the judgment of an immigration officer! I read in the Feb. 23 is ue of The Star that “the Suffolk County sheriff recently announced that he would, even without a warrant, detain immigrants who may be subject to deportation for up to 48 hours so that ICE could take them into custody.” 

It was sobering, indeed chilling, to see the looks of apprehension and worry on the faces of the many who attended the Feb. 21 meeting at the church in Bridgehampton. It is understandable they are so very worried.

I have heard people say, and also read this admonition, that we shouldn’t become alarmist and compare Trump to Hitler or his administration to Nazi Germany. I understand historical settings, including their differences. However, there is a strong parallel in this regard. One, immigrants are being scapegoated. As those who are more extreme, including the president and some of his advisers, are saying of these immigrants, “they” are the cause of crime, social problems, taking away jobs. “Criminal immigrants” is the mentality. Two, with that rationale the solution is detention and deportation. I think of Jews in the 1930s living in forced ghettos, subject to violence in place, eventually deported to the camps. 

I think the parallel today with our immigrants is with the earlier years of Nazi policy toward Jews. Immigrants are being singled out as a group. I know the focus is on the undocumented, not all immigrants, but the sentiments of some of those in charge now seem not to note the difference. 

We are living in a dangerous time.


Just Checking What?


February 26, 2017

To the Editor:

A Latina friend of ours mentioned that she had been stopped by police twice recently. One time her five-year-old was in the car, crying “Momma, I’m afraid of the policeman.” After giving the officer her documentation, he told her she could go. She asked why she had been stopped in the first place, to which he replied, “Just checking.” Just checking what?


They Are Us


February 21, 2017

To the Editor:

In response to Roberta Wicklein’s letter in the Feb. 9 edition, “Not an Immigrant” — Yes, you are! I wholeheartedly concur with the message on the ad in The Star proclaiming “We Are All Immigrants.” Ms. Wicklein was born in the United States to a father who was an immigrant. We all are descended from immigrants, some a generation or two back, others many more generations removed. I don’t defend illegal immigration, but I would point out that the majority of illegal immigrants in this country work hard, pay taxes, and feel positively about the U.S., just as legal immigrants do. I don’t see them rioting, brandishing guns, or spewing hate, as Ms. Wicklein asserts.

I continue to be perplexed that Americans who are themselves descended from immigrants want to pull up the drawbridge and restrict others from coming in behind them. That is not what our country has always stood for. Yes, we need to fix our immigration system, but the solution is not to put further restrictions on legal immigration, which gives us many hard-working people and creative thinkers who want to contribute to America.

The same can be said of the refugees (woefully few) who come here to build a new life. They needed determination and grit to escape violence, war, and persecution in their own countries, which enabled them to make it here after long and perilous journeys and, yes, extreme vetting of up to two years. That determination will help them succeed in this country, add depth and color to the complex fabric of life in the United States, and strengthen our democracy.

Let us not shut the door on immigration or refugees. They are us. We are them.


Two Basic Enemies

East Hampton

February 25, 2017

To the Editor:

On the evening of Feb. 21, several hundred people gathered at a church in Bridgehampton to discuss the new immigration initiative by our president. Sponsored by OLA, the East End’s Latino organization, the meeting was aimed at explaining the new programs and to answer questions. 

The atmosphere was tense and foreboding. There was a sense of uncertainty and fear about what the new programs would do to the immigrant community, fear that the overwhelming power of the government would be turned against them and that their lives would never be the same.

The context of the new proposals is essential to understanding their purpose. On the campaign trail, the president promised to rid the country of 11 million undocumented immigrants. His current rationale is that he is keeping his promise. Even though most of the country thought this proposal to be racist and pointless, he is insisting on keeping his promise. Only 27 percent of the electorate, voted for Mr. Trump, yet he considers that a landslide. Why?

Kicking 11 million undocumented immigrants (if that’s the real number) out resolves none of the problems regarding jobs, crime, etc. They represent no terrorist threat and are a vital piece to many parts of our economy. What they are is the weakest, poorest, and most obvious members of the country and they are easily replaceable. So kicking them out, while serving no useful purpose, is a lot easier then kicking out any other groups. 

In the alternative-right world that the president and his advisers inhabit, there is a narrative that requires two basic enemies, an internal enemy and an external enemy. Immigrants are almost perfect for the internal enemy. Demonized for months as criminals and rapists, their illegal status provides the perfect rationale for their expulsion. They have broken the law and are in violation of U.S. immigration codes. Their illegal status means that they will present little opposition to the process. A win-win for Trump, with the only downside being the temporary setback for the business community.

The lack of empathy and compassion is a major piece of the alt-right agenda. There are only winners and losers. What happens to those who are kicked out and their families is only about weakness and strength. The strength of the alt-right is in assuring victory by attacking the most defenseless (see LGBTQ-protection repeal).

There is a certain sadistic quality to the process, a twisted, satisfying pleasure. Debasing and destroying this group of foreigners gives a leg up to the credo of white superiority. It may appear as a backward step in human evolution, because it probably is.

The lack of humanity and empathy is palpable, yet an important ingredient in pursuit of the alt-right program. The disconnect between the heart and head and the ability or desire to feel and think is the link to necessary cruelty. We certainly aren’t our brother’s keepers.

The other side of the undocumented problem is the inability of our government to come to terms with this issue. Businesses hire undocumented workers because no one else will do their jobs and they can be paid less without benefits and let go at will. Amnesty doesn’t work because the economic benefits of being undocumented disappear with legal status. Underneath all of this is a culture of abuse that we continue to perpetuate.

Yet, abuse is not sufficient for the alt-right. It requires a crushing victory in order to demonstrate that its manhood is intact. It wants to inject fear into the hearts of anyone who would question its values, to make us understand that they are the winners and if we want to be on the winning side we need to shut up and kneel down.

The cowardly attack on undocumented workers is really an attack on all of us. If we see it otherwise, we may find ourselves on the losing end once they run out of undocumented people to get rid of.