Amid a packed and emotional meeting at the Third Street Firehouse in Greenport, the village Board of Trustees voted 5-0 to confirm the immigrant-rich village as a “welcoming community.”
After about two hours of heated debate, the board voted Thursday to adopt a resolution that aims to “continue to honor the spirit of unity that brings neighbors and families together and makes our community the kind of place where diverse people feel appreciated and want to live, participate and raise their families.”
Village Trustee Doug Roberts said he put the resolution before the board earlier this month to express a positive message and support for the village’s immigrant community.
“It’s a symbol of who we are, where we’re going and where we’ve been,” said Trustee Mary Bess Phillips. “We are Greenport, we are all in it together, and we all take care of each other.”
Foreign-born residents make up 18 percent of Greenport’s population, according to the 2011-2015 American Community Survey. Roughly 76.1 percent of foreign-born residents identified as being from Latin America; 13.7 percent identified themselves as Europeans and 7.2 percent as Asians.
The meeting grew heated at times as supporters and opponents took turns expressing their feelings about the resolution. Some residents questioned the reasoning behind the measure and said they worry it could label the community as a haven for immigrants living here illegally.
“As a Greenport rule of thumb, everyone knows everyone here,” resident JoAnne McEntee told the board. “And we don’t need something that is, in my eyes, frivolous.”
Christopher Worth, an East Quogue immigration attorney who supports the resolution, said clients whom he had worked with for decades recently asked him how to protect their children if immigration enforcement officers come for their parents.
“Take them with them!” someone shouted.
Mayor George Hubbard, who voted for the resolution, called the debate a “healthy discussion” and said he hoped that Greenport could “come together and heal.”