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10/13/2000 - Friday - Page A 32

Pro, Con Rallies on Immigrants

Farmingville tensions lead to weekend events

by Bart Jones Staff Writer

The two faces of the debate over undocumented immigrants in Farmingville will be on display on Long Island this weekend.

On Sunday, church, political and community leaders are holding what they expect to be one of the biggest peace vigils on Long Island in years. Tomorrow, a controversial anti-illegal immigration leader from California will speak at a town hall meeting hosted by a vocal community group from Farmingville called Sachem Quality of Life Organization.

Police say they are boosting security at both events to ensure no violence erupts. Farmingville has become a tinderbox of tensions since a brutal attack last month against two Mexican day laborers. On Tuesday one of the alleged attackers, Ryan Wagner, 19, of Maspeth, Queens, surrendered. The second attacker remains at large.

The candlelight vigil aimed at repudiating the attack is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Organizers say they expect at least 1,500 people from throughout Long Island to attend.

"It is time for people of goodwill to assemble and declare that we will not stand idly by and allow extremists and bigots to divide our community," says a flier announcing the rally that the office of Legis. Paul Tonna (R-West Hills) is distributing. Tonna, who is also the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, is one of the main organizers of the event.

Immigrants from Latin America, Kosovo and Ireland will attend the rally, along with a survivor of the Holocaust, who will speak about discrimination in America and will call for more tolerance.

"It's really cutting across all lines, rich and poor, immigrant and non-immigrant, Suffolk and Nassau," said John Bingham, head of immigration services for Catholic Charities.

Gil Bernadino, executive director of the Long Beach-based Circulo de Hispanidad community group, said his group had helped print 20,000 fliers for the event and obtained 10 buses to transport demonstrators.

Tomorrow, Glenn Spencer, a leader of the Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based group Voice of Citizens Together, is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Centereach.

Spencer, who also hosts the weekly radio program "American Patrol Report," said in a telephone interview yesterday that a huge influx of undocumented immigrants from Mexico is overwhelming Californian public institutions.

Spencer said that a "conspiracy" exists among Mexicans to "reconquer" the United States, large parts of which once belonged to Mexico. He adds that those contributing to the plan include the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, the Ford Foundation, the Mexican government and corporations such as Citicorp.

"I am not a xenophobic, racist bigot," Spencer said, arguing that he is concerned mainly with maintaining America's high standard of living.

Cecilia Muñoz, vice president for policy at the National Council of La Raza in Washington, D.C., a Latino civil rights group, said Spencer's organization is a "hate group" that has promoted vigilantism.

Calling the organization "horrifying," she said its "presence in your community should cause great concern for basic rights and basic safety. It's straight up politics of hate and Long Island doesn't need that." Thomas Saenz, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund in Los Angeles, compared Spencer's group to the Ku Klux Klan and said that inviting him to speak "is like calling in David Duke," a former KKK leader from Louisiana.

Spencer rejected the "hate group" label and denied his organization has encouraged vigilantism.