Attention E.H. Democrats

Dear Fellow Democratic Committee member & friends:

The latest unsubtle salvo of East Hampton 's sterling record of innovative anti-immigrant bashing carried to artful virtue as the 2 articles below detail, is but to intrepidly protect the homeowner and livelihood of resident tradespeople according to Democratic EH Supervisor Bill McGintee. Many believe he ran his first campaign on an anti-immigrant coded platform, speaking out against lack of code enforcement at every venue. Everybody understood what and who he was targeting. He promised to make code enforcement his number one priority to root out overcrowded housing by enlarging the code enforcement office. It has expanded significantly since his winning Schneiderman's vacated seat. He often spoke in private (at several meetings I attended) against illegal immigrants driving out working families and especially their unfair advantage over law abiding contractors. Not surprisingly perhaps, he saw housing affordability as a policing problem.

At last month's EH Town Democratic Committee meeting he was sharply questioned and challenged by committee members about his continuing hostile and inflammatory references to "illegals immigrants," and publicly decrying illegals' sending their kids to public schools on the taxpayers' dime, forcing local taxes to rise unfairly on the already strapped fixed-income elderly. When I quoted from the Hagedorn Aldelphi study to try to refute several of his contentions, he replied that that study was hogwash, it didn't even count the added costs to the budget of having sewer trucks unload their contents at the town's waste recycling plant because overcrowded homes [of illegals] had to have their cesspools drained every other week because of overuse.

In the name of protecting consumers, he is again out scoring political points by having his chief code enforcement officer, Don Sharkey, take the lead on McGintee's anti-immigrant stance by code enforcement. You can be certain this is a decision made by the Supervisor, not his code enforcement officer. East Hampton , it seems to me, has artlessly avoided any lawsuit against its deserved reputation for open municipal unfairness toward Latino immigrants, "illegals" to EH's politicos, beyond any reasonable expectation.

In an other matter, dropping any pretense of subtlety, an Ecuadorian-American family was fined $14,000. in the housing court for having volleyball games without a permit, using a residential property for commercial uses (volleyball games and selling food out of their kitchens.) It seems code enforcement threw the book at them with 39 citations of building code infractions, not least of which was the finding of a knife in a daughter's bedroom, reportedly to be used for self-defense if attacked by other tenants. This same family was cited 4 years ago at another home which they rented for playing volleyball illegally, on Sunday afternoons after Mass, the parent's only day off working 12 hr. shifts in a kitchen at a EH eatery.

That these immigrants would follow their attorney's (but previously, EH town's attorney) advice to plead guilty is mind-boggling!

As our private pleas have fallen not just on deaf ears, but on ears determined to selectively filter out the reality of our social stratification by placing blame for economic difficulties of longer-term residents upon immigrants and nurturing resentment by official discrimination against them. It is now necessary for Democrats especially, to speak up publicly and shout from the roof tops against our town's policy of inhospitality and hostility against these men and women who have enriched our community and enlarged our economy.

We call upon these immigrants to watch our children, mow our lawns, clean our houses, stock the shelves of our stores and prepare the food in our restaurants and homes, yet we expect them to be invisible. It is more obvious than our noses that without this immigrant workforce, their taxes, their labor, their businesses, their savings, their consumer spending, the economy of our region would tumble into dire straights. To a tourist economy especially, their labor is utterly necessary and without them it would simply not function, but collapse into a depression of unforeseeable depth.

Not just as Democrats, but as sentient humans we must recognize the humanity of our immigrant neighbors with the same insistence we would demand for ourselves, for our long time resident neighbors, who have the same aspirations, needs, wants and hopes. They too want to live in a town that does not despise them, but affords them the same opportunities, protections and good will offered to all. Equity and justice demand we put an end to the official harassment and hostility to Latinos we have seen, continue to see and we know exists. The Democratic Party has a proud legacy of standing up for the underdog, defending the outsider, of welcoming the immigrant, of fighting for the working man and woman, of championing the civil and human rights of all.

Democrats profess that the cornerstone of an inclusive democracy is the belief that we all are created equal and therefore are endowed with inalienable rights. We must recalibrate our party platform to reflect the needs of our town through the lens of our Democratic principles in order to bring into sharp focus the earned and deserved welcome to recent immigrants and that they have a place at our table. If need be, we must consider an insurgent Democratic Party in East Hampton to fight the snobbery that tries to justify some people deserving of status and privilege while others deserve the short end of the stick based on accidentals of birth, religion, language, accent, shade of skin or status of immigration. As Democrats especially, we must speak up because we are in indisputable, if not entirely complete, position of power determining policy of municipal governance. We must speak up because we are all immigrant tenants of time journeying on this planet coursing through the Milky Way.

Michael O'Neill