Immigration raid concerns being discussed at Saratoga Springs town hall meeting

July 17, 2017 11:55 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga Race Course and the downtown scene in Saratoga Springs are huge draws for tourists.

Some community members worry that Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting immigrant workers at those industries and others could hurt the community.

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“I know about family who they cannot go to work because they are afraid to leave the home even though they are working hard and they are paying taxes,” said Dr. Ingrid Bermudez, who runs Family Medicine of Mechanicville.

“We rely on a strong work force not just in the summer but all year long,” said Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen. “The restaurants have been effected somewhat. Not the racetrack.”

Some also worry that could change after several dozen immigrants from countries including Mexico and Guatemala were swept up in ICE raids in Saratoga recently.

Advocates said immigrant employees, including backstretch workers who tend to racetrack horses, are vital to the city's economy. However, advocates also said immigrant workers are also people with real needs.

“It interrupts a community,” said Diana Barnes, a member of the Human Rights Task Force in Saratoga Springs and a Professor of US- Mexico border studies at Skidmore College. “It interrupts people buy individually and will be talking about human beings were talking about family were talking about communities.”

“I see it from every point of view,” Dr. Bermudez said. “And as a doctor people come and tell you more stuff.”

Members of Saratoga’s Human Rights Task Force and panelists including Dr. Bermudez addressed those concerns and other immigration related issues during a town hall meeting at Skidmore College Monday night.

“Everybody is afraid,” Dr. Bermudez. “Everybody is scared. Everybody is afraid to lose their jobs. Legal or illegal because we are in an uncertain time.”

Julie Leonelli said some immigrant members of her church have event stopped attending St. Joseph’s church in Fort Edward, where she is a member.  

“They're afraid of being sent back to Mexico where they have no one,” Leonelli said. “They've lived here 20 years now. They don't have family back there.”

“The economy depends on immigrants up here,” Dr. Bermudez. “So I think everybody's being hurt.”

Despite the raids, Mayor Yepsen said the city is expecting a strong horse racing season this summer.

She stands by a Saratoga Springs City Council resolution declaring the city to be a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone.


WNYT Staff

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