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Day-Laborer Issues Prompt Opposing Rallies


10/14/2000 - N.Y. Times

As the Suffolk County police continued to search yesterday for a second suspect in the beating of two Mexican day laborers last month, groups on both sides of the debate over illegal immigrants planned weekend events to rally public support.

A group that protests the presence of illegal immigrants in Farmingville, called Sachem Quality of Life Organization, invited an anti-immigration advocate from California to speak today at a Veteran of Foreign Wars post in Centereach. Tomorrow, the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission and other groups are sponsoring a candlelight unity rally in Hauppauge to urge officials to address the problems of day laborers.

The events stem from concerns in Farmingville about the day laborers, most of them Mexican, who gather for work daily at a busy intersection and live in overcrowded conditions, and from the Sept. 17 attack on two of them.

In that incident, two white men posing as contractors picked the Mexicans up in Farmingville and drove them to an abandoned factory in Shirley, where they attacked the laborers with construction tools and a knife, the police said. Both victims were wounded and are unable to work. On Tuesday, a 19-year-old Queens man was arrested and charged in the beating; a second suspect remains at large.

Glenn Spencer, president of Voices of Citizens Together, a California group that pushes for immigration reform, is scheduled to speak at a meeting today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at V.F.W. Post 4927 in Centereach.

A woman tending the bar there yesterday said the post did not condone the speaker's views. "We didn't know what it was going to be, and we're kind of stuck with it because we have a contract," said the bartender, who would not give her name.

The rally tomorrow will be held at 6 p.m. at the H. Lee Dennison Building, a county building in Hauppauge.

Ray Wysolmierski, a member of Sachem Quality of Life, said his group planned to ask for the resignation of Paul J. Tonna, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature and one of the organizers of the rally.

"They'll be marching with the illegals, which to me is treason," he said of the public officials and others who planned to attend the rally.

Mr. Wysolmierski said the 1,500 immigrants estimated to be living in Farmingville were there illegally, dwelling in overcrowded conditions and not paying taxes.

"Just because they're status crimes, we're expected to wink at them," he said. "We want them deported, very softly and gently," he said of the illegal immigrants.

But the Rev. Allan B. Ramirez, pastor of the Brookville Reformed Church, who has been acting as an adviser to the victims of the Sept. 17 attack, is concerned that tomorrow's event will only increase tensions in the community.

"The concern is that it continues to create a climate, an atmosphere, in which we look at a certain group of people, in this case the Latino community, as a group towards which we can direct our rage, our anger, and even violence, as we have seen," he said. "And it appeals to the worst of instincts in people."

But he added that Mr. Spencer's speech might show the larger community what kind of views the Sachem group really supports. "We know the kind of hate rhetoric that is spewed from individuals like him, and perhaps in some odd way it will be good," Mr. Ramirez said.

Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., said Mr. Spencer had delivered videotapes to Congress that purported to prove that Mexico was trying to reimpose its sovereignty on the American Southwest. "They live in a paranoid fantasy world," Mr. Potok said. "He has done his best to poison the atmosphere along the border."

Inspector Kenneth Rau, commanding officer of the Sixth Precinct of the Suffolk County police, which includes Centereach, said officers would be assigned to each event, and patrols there would be increased.

"The intense rhetoric from the far left and far right on both sides of this situation has been inflammatory," he said.

Mr. Tonna said the goal of the Sunday rally was to encourage elected officials to deal with the laborers' problems. "Any solution has to start with affirming the dignity of all human beings," he said.

"My sense is a few extremists doesn't speak for the general community," Mr. Tonna said. "The contrast will be very interesting."