Marcela Rojas, Journal News (White Plains, NY), Jan. 5, 2006
BREWSTER — Parents of elementary school children came out in force last night to a meeting hosted by the Brewster Central School District to continue the emotionally charged discussions about illegal immigration in their community.
More than 120 people gathered at Garden Street Elementary School to express concerns about the safety of their children and — to a larger degree — controlling the volume of immigrant day laborers that gather on Brewster’s Main Street.
An Oct. 31 incident in which a drunken man was found unconscious behind the hilltop school prompted the assignment of a sheriff’s deputy to stand guard there and, later, a school resource officer, the first stationing of an officer at a Putnam elementary school.
But the matter also prompted parents to demand that officials at the town, village and county levels address the problem of illegal immigration and make regional changes. Meetings with the Southeast Town Board and the village board prompted the third joint gathering last night at the school.
“My kids came home from school and said, ‘Dad why is there a policeman at school?’ That upset me,” said Brewster resident Joe Lambert. “Having a school resource officer is not a good thing to do. The problem is not at Garden Street School. It’s in the village of Brewster.”
Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, spoke briefly about her commitment to address illegal immigration.
“I’m here to listen and take back to Washington what you have to say,” she said. “We welcome people to come, but we welcome them to come legally.”
Several members of the community spoke about their concerns and pressed officials on what happens to illegals who are arrested or pulled over.
“I do resent that my culture is being taken over by another culture,” said Southeast resident Elizabeth Callanan, whose remarks were met with applause.
Others appealed for tolerance and understanding.
“I don’t want to walk out of here and feel like there’s a witch hunt going on,” said Robert Berardi of Southeast, whose Brazilian girlfriend is in the U.S. on a visa.
His comments outraged some residents, who called out to ask whether he would let his girlfriend walk down Main Street with 100 men. He said it would be no different than walking by construction workers. Sabatella stopped the volley before it escalated.
LAKE FOREST — Members of the City Council listened to 14 speakers Tuesday night express their concerns about day laborers in the city.
S & S Auto Service co-owner Gary Smith said he is sick of litter, public drunkenness and harassment of his customers.
Lake Forest resident Todd MacAndrew said it is unsafe to walk on Jeronimo and El Toro roads.
Land owner Richard Laub said his property values have suffered.
Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist joined residents and business owners in asking the council for its help to remedy the circumstances.
“We have become increasingly frustrated as we have watched our area deteriorate with litter, public urination, drunkenness and harassment of our customers as they slowly pull onto Orange Avenue in search of our location,” Smith said. “We are constantly asked by our customers why something isn’t done about the day laborers here, and shouldn’t we relocate to a less intimidating location?”
The audience of about 30 applauded each time a speaker addressed the council on concerns for their safety and those around them. Some audience members did commend the deputies for their ongoing efforts to help the businesses and owners with the day laborers.
No one was at the meeting to speak on behalf of the day laborers.
In his opening comments as the newly appointed mayor, Richard Dixon said the day laborer problem would be a challenge the city faced this year.