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L.I. Home Held Up to 64 Men, Authorities Say

AR Articles on Hispanic Family Values
The Myth of Hispanic Family Values (March 2004)
More news stories on Hispanic Family Values
Bruce Lambert, New York Times, June 21

FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. — Long Island law enforcement agents raided and closed a small one-family home here that they said had been converted into an illegal rooming house jammed with 44 beds and up to 64 male occupants.

Officials said they are investigating an additional 117 houses for illegal overcrowding in this blue-collar suburb, which has been polarized in recent years over an influx of thousands of Mexican laborers, many of them illegal immigrants who work in the contracting, landscaping and service industries.

The crackdown is the latest front in the battle over immigration here that has prompted homeowner protests and even violence. Last year Farmingville became the title of an award-winning documentary on the struggle.

Shortly after dawn on Sunday, a team of Brookhaven building inspectors and fire marshals joined county police in raiding the dilapidated, 900-square-foot home at 33 Woodmont Place and found 28 men there. But inspectors said they had counted as many as 64 men emerging from the house on other mornings in recent weeks.

The tenants paid $225 to $250 a month each for a bunk in the house, the police said. Suffolk’s district attorney, Thomas J. Spota, estimated the gross monthly rent at $9,000.

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“The conditions were disgusting” in the house, said Councilman James Tullo of Brookhaven. Officials said the inside was a filthy jumble of mattresses, clothing and food. Photographs and videotape showed a collapsing ceiling, overloaded electrical wiring and blocked basement windows.

The main floor had a kitchen and two bathrooms. That floor and the basement were crammed with beds and belongings. Outside were two bicycles, a grill and cases of empty beer bottles in two shopping carts.

Conditions are as bad or even worse at some of the 117 other houses that the authorities are investigating, Mr. Tullo said.

Defenders of the immigrant workers say they provide low-cost menial labor but are often exploited by contractors who pay illegally low wages with no benefits.

Mr. Ramirez accused Mr. Levy of “racism” and “ethnic cleansing.” While conceding “horrible conditions” in the house, the minister said the abrupt enforcement means “basically there will be 25 or 30 men sleeping out on the street.”

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Original article

(Posted on June 22, 2005)

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