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Feb 12, 2009 12:14 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Immigration bill to be revived

Feb 12, 2009 12:14 PM

Plans for immigration reform that were shelved two years ago by Congress, and a lack of available work visas, topped the concerns of more than 100 residents who turned out for a forum on immigration in Bridgehampton on Thursday, January 29.

Long Island Immigrant Alliance Executive Director Luis Valenzuela, immigration attorneys Millicent Clark and Allen Kaye and U.S. Representative Tim Bishop fielded questions for more than three hours from a crowd that aired many pro-immigrant concerns. The panelists offered nitty-gritty technical details about the United States’ current stance toward immigrants.

The event was held in the Bridgehampton National Bank’s community room and was organized by Organizacion Latino Americana (OLA).

Many of the questions were lobbed at Mr. Bishop, who said that Congress is planning to tackle immigration reform again in the second half of 2009. A four-part bill, originally proposed by Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy in 2005, would crack down on employers who hire illegal workers; make more H2B seasonal work visa and agricultural visas available; intensify border protection and provide a path to earned legalization for people who are currently in the country illegally.

“This is the part some people describe as ‘amnesty,’” said Mr. Bishop of the last section of the bill. “It is not amnesty. Immigrants with a clean record would have to pay a fine and back taxes on money they earned off the books, would have to learn English and civics and would have to maintain a clean record.” He said that immigrants would be granted permanent residency status only after they’d completed those requirements, which could take 10 to 12 years.

Natalia Saavedra, a member of OLA’s Younger Generation group, asked Mr. Bishop if what she called the “Dream Act” would be passed. It would treat students as legal residents if they entered the United States with their parents before they were six years old, for the purpose of college admissions and financial aid.

Mr. Bishop said that the “Dream Act” is included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Melinda Rubin, an immigration attorney from Hampton Bays, said that she is concerned that employers on the East End who want to hire immigrants this summer will have a harder time doing so this year because Immigration and Customs Enforcement ran out of H2B visas for 2009 on January 7.

“There are people in Montauk who are going to be hurting badly,” said Ms. Rubin. “Americans lost their companies because of this.”

Mr. Bishop said that the departments of Labor and Homeland Security will likely add more visas administratively instead of waiting for Congress to pass a law adding new visas, as it did in 2008.

Ms. Clark and Mr. Kaye warned attendees that many immigration lawyers get a lot of money out of illegal immigrants without telling them straight that they cannot get a green card because of the way they entered the country.

“When you come to an attorney who tells the truth, listen,” said Ms. Clark. “Don’t keep going to get the answer you want.”

Mr. Kaye added that it is possible for illegal immigrants to get a green card if they can show that not having one would cause an extreme hardship to a relative in the United States. But they have to go to their home countries to apply; and if they left, they might not be allowed back. It “is like putting your head in a lion’s mouth,” he said.

“Don’t do that,” he said. “Don’t go asking for a deportation proceeding.”

Early in the meeting, Southampton resident Elaine Kahn stood up to say that she believed immigration advocates were shutting out of the discussion those people who were concerned about their own community’s future.

“We are American citizens,” she said. “We don’t want to be treated as outsiders.” No one answered her. The panelists said they would not respond because her questions were not addressed to the panel. Another member of the audience who sat with a small group that surrounded Ms. Kahn and nodded in agreement with her statements was not called on after holding up his hand for nearly an hour. He walked out of the meeting.

“Really I am offended,” said Ms. Kahn as she walked out of the meeting before it had ended. “I am absolutely appalled at the lack of respect for citizens.”

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Faceless,

Far be it from me to claim to have all the answers, and I certainly feel for any crime victim and those that you cite; however, the available (non-anecdotal) evidence shows that undocumented aliens are more apt to be crime victims because perpetrators know that undocumenteds are reluctant to complain to the police. Seems this may be the case in Patchogue as we learn that the killers of Marcelo Lucero committed other violent crimes against Latinos.

All immigrant groups. ...more
By number19 (108), Westhampton on Feb 4, 09 1:16 PM
Crime does not know age, gender or income. It happens everywhere all of the time regardless of one’s citizenship. Those individuals committing these crimes are the ones that should be discussed within Long Island discourse and especially legislation.

It is important to keep ourselves focused on the bigger picture. We are here together now, and the arguments displayed by either side as to who is right and who is wrong are important to voice, yet seem to be getting us nowhere fast. Instead ...more
By United Not Divided (1), Smithtown on Feb 4, 09 5:39 PM
It's still a shame to see what racism and prejudice exists on the east end. It should be faceless but it's not. Are we forgetting that all men are created equal. All four of my grandparents were immigrants. I find most of these people are hardworking good people in search of the American dream
By harbor man (40), sag harbor on Feb 4, 09 9:43 PM
I attended the meeting reported in this article. The faces of the young women who spoke of their stories as members of an immigrant family, the faces of the young families in the audiences that listened to the speakers, and the faces of my neighbors who asked important and serious questions are the faces of our Town. The faces that make this Town one of the most wonderful places to live. It is too easy to demonize people with faceless statistics. If meeitings such as this one are held again, ...more
By Viewpoint (26), Southampton on Feb 5, 09 7:19 AM
Yes it is wrong to take advantage of someones unfortunate circumstance, but it is also wrong not to put the brunt of the unfortunate circumstance on the person who caused it. Those who snuck into this country and broke the law and are still in violation of the laws that we as citizens are subject to, created a circumstance that put them in that place. "ILLEGAL" means illegal. Illegal means that when you are caught they handcuff you and tell you that have the right to keep quiet and a right to ...more
By Vbalchunas (11), Southampton on Feb 6, 09 6:21 AM
All men and women are created equal. But what does that have to do with being a illegal immigrant The one single word sums it all up ILLEGAL. When my great grand parents came to this country they came to stay. Not to beat the US system, get free health care, change their S.S. # like socks, pay little or no taxes, send all their tax free earnings abroad. Then complain that they are not treated fair. Is being Illegal fair to the rest of us. So it makes you a racist if you feel that the ILLEGAL work ...more
By Dragharbor1980 (9), North Haven on Feb 6, 09 10:36 PM
I can see why this poster chooses to remain "faceless".
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Feb 7, 09 6:45 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By jim (37), hampton bays on Feb 8, 09 7:32 AM
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