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Village Board declares Greenport as a ‘welcoming community’

02/24/2017 7:46 AM |

Greenport Village welcoming community

As it turns out, Greenport Village is a welcoming community after all, although it might not have seemed that way during some of the discussion at the village board meeting Thursday night, where a resolution declaring the village to be a welcoming community was up for a vote.

About 60 people packed the Greenport firehouse meeting room Thursday, most of them there to discuss the non-binding “welcoming community” resolution, which had first been proposed by Trustee Doug Roberts at last week’s Village board work session.

At that time, Trustees Mary Bess Phillips and Julia Robins both said they didn’t feel it was necessary because Greenport already is a welcoming community.

On Thursday, following a barrage of mostly speakers in support of the resolution, the resolution declaring Greenport Village as a welcoming community was approved unanimously.

A portion of the resolution states: “By recognizing and applauding the contributions that we all make to sustain and enhance our already vibrant culture and growing economy, we continue to make our community more prosperous and more inclusive to all who call it home.”

Mr. Roberts said the resolution is a symbolic statement and he doesn’t see how it could hurt the village to put on paper that it’s a welcoming community.

Prior to voting, Ms. Robins said: “I’m honored to be able to vote and pass this resolution.”

Former Mayor Dave Kapell spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and said: “Nearly 20 percent of village residents are under the threat of deportation as a result of the recent executive orders executed by President Trump with respect to immigration … The vast majority of these people are decent, hard working people trying to make a life for their families and their children … Seventy-five percent of the kids in the Greenport school are from these families. Their labor is the backbone of the village and North Fork economy. Without them, the village economy will tank and the school will forced to close.”

Resident Bill Swiskey said he believes the resolution “doesn’t really mean anything” since immigration is handled on the federal level.

Resident Bob Kehl said he opposed Thursday’s decision since there’s already a sign at the entrance to the village saying “Welcome to Greenport.” 

He held up a sign with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s phone number on it and said: “For the people that stand with us and the President of the United States, make you voices heard by calling this number 866-347-2423 to report any obstruction as far as our immigration laws or any employers employing illegal aliens or renting to illegal aliens or anyone aiding and abetting illegal aliens and this includes the clergy … and make sure you mention Doug Roberts by name.”

A number of audience members booed Mr. Kehl following his remarks.

Bob Kehl of Greenport speaking at Thursday's meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Bob Kehl of Greenport speaking at Thursday’s meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Chris Worth, an immigration attorney who supported the resolution, said people now come to his law office asking how to use the federal dragnet on illegal immigration to deport undocumented people, while at the same time clients of his who are immigrants are asking him how to protect their children should they get deported.

Resident Chatty Allen said she felt the resolution wasn’t necessary and would only lead to the village getting “torn apart” by arguments over the immigration issue.

Resident JoAnne McEntee said the resolution fails to mention illegal immigrants.

“There are people who don’t do the right thing,” she said. Ms. McEntee said her daughter’s car was hit by an illegal immigrant who had no insurance and her daughter ended up having to pay the $2,600 to fix the damage.

Resident Lynn Edwards said: “If Trump has done nothing else, he’s brought out all the ugliness in America.”

Resident Kathryn Casey Quigley — a creator of the “Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin” Facebook group, which aims to organize an in-person town hall meeting with Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to discuss issues like immigration — said she supports the village’s decision.

“I can’t think of anything more important,” Ms. Casey Quigley said. She also read a letter from her husband, David Ryan, who said he wondered what it would be like to have a parent ripped from their children through an immigration raid or to never see a loved one again after leaving in the morning.

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