The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) Charges Brookhaven with a Systematic Attack on Latinos and Ask Federal Court to Stop Evictions of Day Laborers

September 13, 2005
Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications (212) 739-7513

Town of Brookhaven, NY --- The Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund (PRLDEF) charged the Town of Brookhaven with executing a systematic attack on Latinos in their campaign to evict day laborers from Farmingville.

PRLDEF filed a lawsuit in US District Court today saying that the town’s latest campaign, called Operation Firestorm, seeks to harass and evict thousands of Latinos tenants without providing them prior notice or process. The town has already evicted hundreds of Latinos living in various locations with no prior notice or offers for relocation.

Most of the evicted Latinos are now homeless, some living in the woods without running water or sanitation, and some have moved into housing conditions even more dangerous than before. PRLDEF charged that the town was executing a systematic campaign of “harassing, intimidating or retaliating” against Latino day laborers and their advocates.

PRLDEF asked the court to force Brookhaven to stop its campaign to evict residents without proper notice, provide relocation help to Latinos they plan to evict and to provide help to those already evicted.

“Operation Firestorm is a flagrant effort to force Latinos out of the community” said Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of PRLDEF. “The town’s campaign to illegally evict these people has inflamed the community and fueled racial discord against Latinos. These day laborers came to this country because people in the community – in Brookhaven - hire them to work.”

The Latino day laborer community has been a presence in the Town of Brookhaven since the mid-1990’s. Latino day laborers have come to Brookhaven to work mostly in construction, restaurant, landscaping and other industries. Despite their strong work ethic and contribution to the local labor pool, the atmosphere of harassment and intimidation has fostered racial animus against Latinos.

Four years ago, two white men posing as contractors, picked up two Mexicans laborers and drove them to an abandoned factory where they attacked by constriction tools. Latino homes have been firebombed and Latinos have been the victims of racial slurs and other violence.

PRLDEF argued in its papers that the mass homelessness these evictions create, forcing many residents to live in open camps on vacant land, with no running water or toilet facilities, presents a greater danger to community's health than the overcrowded conditions the town allegedly sought to address by these evictions.

In August, the town ordered shut a house they claimed was illegally overcrowded. More than 15 people were evicted and sent into the streets. The displaced residents have since erected tents in the backyard of the house. The town has executed 10 other evictions in the past months, which has resulted in the displacement of hundreds of people.

PRLDEF claimed that the Town’s policy and practice of summary evictions without giving tenants prior notice was “arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law…” PRLDEF refutes the Town’s claim that its action was justified because of an emergency situation in the house. A Brookhaven inspector made an internal inspection of the house on May 20th yet the Town waited until August to evict the tenants.

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