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Jun 2, 2009 5:42 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Hampton Bays woman founds new pro-immigration organization

Jun 2, 2009 5:42 PM

Sylvia Baruch has witnessed firsthand the struggles of immigrants living on Long Island while volunteering with the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, a Riverhead group that serves Latino families in need of assistance.

Over the past seven years, the Hampton Bays resident has personally helped several Mexican families, in some instances by driving their children to doctor appointments and, in others, by tutoring their children who are struggling in school, all in the hopes of helping them achieve a better life.

Ms. Baruch has experienced the joy of helping a 30-year-old Latino man learn to read English for the first time. On the flip side, she has also suffered the heartbreak that comes when families she has helped in the past are forced to return to their home countries because their primary bread winner was deported.

“I’ve been so impressed with their efforts and care for one another,” said Ms. Baruch of the immigrants she has helped. And though she openly admits that many of those she assists are undocumented, Ms. Baruch said their legal status simply does not matter to her.

“You give people a label, so you don’t have to deal with them as human beings,” said Ms. Baruch whose grandparents were Sephardic Jews who immigrated from what is now Macedonia in the early 1900s.

After observing the protesters who congregate near the 7-Eleven on County Road 39 in Southampton Village, many of whom think that all illegal immigrants should be rounded up and deported, Ms. Baruch said she was prompted to form a pro-immigrants’ rights group called Neighbors in Support of Immigrants. “The anti-immigrant groups were so organized,” she added, justifying one of her reasons for launching the group.

In January, Ms. Baruch said she reached out to about 40 people on the East End, asking them their thoughts on forming an illegal immigrants’ rights coalition. She said the response was overwhelming and Neighbors in Support of Immigrants, a group of American citizens whose main goal is to oversee to the humane treatment of immigrants living on the North and South forks, was formed.

Today, the group, which focuses on the rights of all immigrants—both legal and illegal—consists of about two dozen members who meet once a month to express their views and discuss ways to further their group’s message. “We all share a concern about the immigrants and want to see them treated well,” said Ms. Baruch who was inspired by the struggles of her grandparents upon their arrival in America.

Organizers note that coalition members are still in the process of writing their mission statement. Still, they have already submitted letters to the editor that have been published by The Press and sent additional correspondence to U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton and President Obama, urging both to introduce legislation on comprehensive immigration reform.

In a recent interview, Ms. Baruch pointed to the economic benefit the immigrants bring to the East End by providing cheaper labor for some companies. “There is a lot of misinformation about that,” she said, adding that it would cost too much money to deport every one of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now residing in the country.

Still, not everyone on the East End shares Ms. Baruch’s opinions, nor her reasons for launching an organization whose goal, in part, is to advocate on behalf of those who have entered the country illegally.

Elaine Kahl, the co-chair of the Suffolk County Coalition for Legal Immigration/No Amnesty, said her group has a very different stance on illegal immigration. Although they support legal immigration, Ms. Kahl said her group focuses more on the negative effects associated with those who are entering the country illegally.

“We don’t support people entering here who have broken the law,” she said. “It has the entire community extremely upset.”

Ms. Kahl, who declined to say where in Southampton Town she lives, said she is urging Neighbors in Support of Immigrants to reconsider its mission, one that, she said, will ultimately harm the qualify of life for all East End residents. “Would they like these people who are begging for jobs hanging out on their front lawns?” she said.

Ms. Kahl also maintains that her group is not motivated by hate. “It’s not a race issue, it’s a legal issue,” she said.

Though she is aware of the brewing opposition, Ms. Baruch defended her reasons for helping launch the new organization. She noted that many of the people who enter the country illegally would opt to cross the border lawfully, if they could. “The immigration system is broken,” she said.

Ms. Baruch added that while group members can do little to change the opinions of those who oppose illegal immigration, she still hopes to reach the people who are on the fence about the issue. “There is a group of middle folk who haven’t really thought about it,” she said.

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Contrary to her contention, Ms. Kahl does not speak for the entire community. In fact, it is Mr. Baruch's compassion, generosity, and understanding which represent much more of this community's sentiments than those expressed by Ms. Kahl and the organization she purports to represent. Kudos to Ms. Baruch for her efforts and for her good will.

F. Zappone
By Frank (3), Southampton on May 28, 09 7:17 AM
Next we will have groups to hide pedophiles cause they are soooo discriminated against! Illegal is illegal.....
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on May 28, 09 9:36 AM
Thanks for stepping forward Ms Baruch. Yes, we all share a common humanity.
By number19 (111), Westhampton on May 28, 09 9:38 AM
It's time to STOP rewarding the law breakers. People who come into our country Illegally have no reguard for our immigration laws. Yet they feel they are entitled to our entitlements. Just have an anchor baby (and it's not just one!!) and they receive entitlements because that anchor baby is a citizen!! WIC, ADC, Section 8, and the list goes on. Our Immigration system is NOT broken, the illegal alien supporters continue to say that. We need our Immigration laws enforced, secure our borders and DEPORT. ...more
By Patriot (3), Cleveland on May 28, 09 5:51 PM
Frank,
I do not believe you are speaking for the entire community claiming most of us have the same sentiments. Probably more of us are not as vocal as some. I have no problems with immigrants becoming part of our community; however, I am bothered about the illegals. They live in over-crowded housing, you have no clue if they are criminals, they bring disease, etc. Oh yes, I understand that they come from poor countries and haven't had the opportunities like many of us...BUT laws are made ...more
By BeachGal (72), Hampton Bays on May 29, 09 10:07 AM
Uh, how about helping citizens? I could use help with food, and my son could benefit from a tutor in school. Too bad we speak English
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on May 29, 09 10:59 AM
Miss Baruch, the voices of hate and ignorance scream the loudest, but in the end humanity and kindness will always win. Keep up the good work.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jun 1, 09 5:30 PM
Thank God there are still people like Miss Baruch out there.
By Miss K. (102), East Quogue on Jun 2, 09 4:24 AM
Yeah , I agree with squeaky. Help fellow Americans out , not illegal aliens.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jun 2, 09 4:37 PM
Contrary to many of the above comments, it is my belief that any law that is not enforced is a "Broken Law" and either should be removed from the books or fixed. "Squeaky" states that next we will protect pedophiles! You demean yourself and your fellow followers with that type of ignorant mentality. In the end, these people are human beings. If the law is enforced, so be it - they are deported. If the law is not enforced, why don't you talk to your politicians about enforcement and leave the rest ...more
By quogue (12), southampton on Jun 2, 09 4:54 PM
Illegal aliens have broken the law and should be sent back to their country. The police have to be given more authority. Why do people hire them at $10.00 and $20.00 an hour with a free lunch. That's like making $15.00 and $25.00 or more. They are not paying taxes but get all the services we are entitled free. No co payment. And we have to clean up after them.
By LongIslander (43), HAMPTON BAYS on Jun 2, 09 8:30 PM
Sacasm, Bonehead! Excuse me but we vote fo the people who SAY they will enforce our laws. Then another agenda seems to stop them from remembering who put them in office on the way to Capitol Hill. Maybe its not being politicaly correct who knows. They say one thing and do what pays the best.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Jun 2, 09 8:32 PM
Excuse me, but laws start at the top .Unfortunately there are people in high office that forget about the CITIZENS of this country. Forget politically correct. Enforce the laws.
By LongIslander (43), HAMPTON BAYS on Jun 2, 09 8:55 PM
Spelling error in the photo caption?
Shouldn't "Norfolk" instead say "North Fork" ?
By easthamptoner (34), easy hampton on Jun 3, 09 8:42 AM
Sylvia is a wonderful woman who has managed to bring people together for a shared concern....kudos to her. This group of people working together to educate people about immigration is wonderful....as you can see from above, the misinformation out there is terrible.

No one has the right to judge someone else for who they choose to help - it's her own time. Those of you calling her a traitor and such, how American is that?
By LMVT (56), Hampton Bays on Jun 3, 09 5:55 PM
My advise to all is just move! I had to get away from it. Leave the Hamptons to the rich and the illegals and see how they like that.
By Just (14), Hampton Bays on Jun 4, 09 3:38 PM
why doesnt this bleeding heart woman go down to mexico and see how they live there? Do u want this place to become the newest mexico? why dont they stay home and better their own country? Why? Because they get free everything here thanks to stupid naive people like sylvia baruch.
By jim (48), hampton bays on Jun 5, 09 2:22 PM
And let's not forget the young mother who worked in her father's fish store in Westhampton. She was raped and murdered by an illegal who also worked there, and had a crush on her. She spurned him and he killed her, took her car, and burned it. She left behind a 5 year old boy. I didn't mention her name because I didn't ask her family for permission to use her name. But she should be remembered and maybe she should have a butterfly garden planted in her name and a scholarship set up in her ...more
By darwin (47), southampton on Jun 5, 09 3:38 PM
NONE of us can control what the powers to be allow. The high flux of illegals are due to companies that paid under the table for YEARS. They sent monies back to their families and they wanted to become part of the NEW ILLEGAL DEAL. They have spread from the South to the North looking for jobs. If people would STOP hiring them..maybe they would go home? I had a contractor doing work on my home that brought illegals onto my property..and told him point blank..get americans to do the work. ...more
By BeachGal (72), Hampton Bays on Jun 6, 09 6:23 PM
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