Immigration reform rally held in Southampton
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Supporters of immigration reform rallied in Southampton Sunday and urged Congress to pass comprehensive legislation giving those in the country illegally a path to citizenship.
East End Immigrant Advocates, a year-old group, said it is also trying to draw awareness to East End immigrant communities, many of which are relied upon for services by owners of second homes, but are often overlooked politically.
The rally at Lola Prencite Memorial Park on Windmill Lane drew more than 200 people, who waved signs while calling for federal action. Across the street, four people staged a protest of the rally.
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Immigrants and supporters said that the immigrant communities on the East End face a unique set of challenges.
"You do feel sometimes you're not wanted," said Benny Torres, of Hampton Bays, a former Democratic leader in town. "They want us to mow the lawns and paint houses. But they don't want us to live here."
Miguel Amaya, 41, of Shirley, who works for a tree and landscaping service in Southampton, said, "We need reform." He said he came to the United States from El Salvador 20 years ago.
"It's not easy," on the East End, he said. "Some people make it hard."
East End Tea Party chairwoman Lynda Edwards, of Amagansett, was holding a sign that read, "Don't Jump the Fence, Obey the law."
She said that legal residents would do the jobs immigrants do. "There are lines of people trying to get jobs," she said.
She was joined by three protesters from New York City. "These people demanding citizenship, and they're not even bothering to learn how to speak English," said Jim MacDonald, of Flushing.
Osman Canales, a Huntington-based immigrant rights activist, said when he has spoken to groups of Hispanic parents out East, they have told him they're scared to come forward.
Fernando Aviles, a leader with East End Immigrant Advocates, said there's a large immigrant population on eastern Long Island, but it is too often overlooked.
Part of the effort Sunday, he said, was to get immigrants "to raise their hands and say, 'We are here.' "