The Synergy Greenport meeting, hosted by the Southold Anti-Bias Task Force at the St. Agnes school, brought together nearly 100 people to discuss community fears and frustrations. Many Latino residents expressed concern over deportation as well as what role local law enforcement would play now that federal funding could be withheld if they did not cooperate. After all, there was a major Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in Greenport only a decade ago that took eleven men from their homes.
Greenport resident Oscar Cruz put it best when he asked, “There’s a lot of good people. We try to be good neighbors. We try to switch our cultures. We love America, we love this culture and we try to get involved. I don’t want to be separated from my children…Do we have to be afraid for them to come?”
“Our department is here to protect and to serve our community,” Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley responded, reassuring the crowd, “I have no plans on dedicating officers to do any kind of immigration work.” However, Flatley said that any designation of Greenport as a sanctuary place would require a cooperative effort between the town and the village. Southold Town Councilman Jim Dinizio, who was present at the meeting, said that the town board doesn’t “deal with that” and that it was unlikely to consider a sanctuary designation in the near future.
Anti-Bias Task Force co-chair Sonia Spar argued that progress was being made in the community: “We have members of the Latino community here. They know they feel safe with us. The village is here, they can go to the village. The schools are paying attention. There are people who are going to hear you; who are willing to listen.”
The meeting also dealt with the issues of informing the public of their rights, the lack of Spanish-speaking police officers, and steps the community can take to help their Latino neighbors.