Immigration “Watchdogs” Mark Their Territory

by Thomas MacMillan | December 7, 2007 8:15 AM | | Comments (19)

120607_0241.jpg“Your ethics are the almighty dollar!” Ted Pechinski declared to landscaper Shawn Upton.
“It’s not that it’s cheap,” Upton responded. “It’s that it’s reliable.”

Pechniski is a vociferous anti-immigration activist. Upton is a West Haven landscaper who hires undocumented workers starting at $12 an hour.

Their unofficial debate took place offstage Thursday night at a town hall meeting on immigration in the basement atrium of the Wilson Branch Library in the Hill. Much of the debate took place off of the brightly-lit stage, and after the event was officially over.

The town hall meeting was organized by Connecticut Public Television as a follow-up to its October citizen dialogue at Gateway Community College. The meeting featured a panel discussion between the audience and a selection of four Connecticut politicians. Panelists included New Haven Alderman Yusuf Shah, State Representative Vincent Candelora, State Sen. Edward Meyer, and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. The proceedings were taped by CPTV to be aired as a “Front and Center Special” on Friday, Jan 11, at 8:30 p.m.

Upton told Pechinski that he hires immigrant workers because he can’t find American workers who are dependable, willing to do the job, and not drug users.

Pechinski offered to find suitable American workers for Upton. “If I bring them in, will you hire them?”

“When I spend six months training them and then they leave, are you going to reimburse me?” replied Upton.

The Watchdogs

Members of the Community Watchdog Project were out in force at the town meeting. They filled most of the first two rows of the audience and dominated the question and answer segment of the program. Some of them visited the microphone more than once to pose questions to the panel.

120607_0222.jpgOne of these was Alan Felder (pictured, at right), who said that New Haven’s ID card program was taking resources away from a more pressing issue in the city. “In the black community we have some troubled youth. That’s the problem in New Haven,” said Felder. “You have failed the African-American community,” he said, repeating this sentence twice for emphasis.

Alderman Shah responded by defending the ID program as a necessary step to deal with the reality of immigration in New Haven. Shah said that he agreed that crime among African-American youth is a significant problem in New Haven. If Felder has suggestions about this, he would love to hear them, Shah said.

After the meeting, several members of the Community Watchdog Project donned their official navy blue jackets, embroidered on the right breast with each member’s name and official title, and on the left with the CWP seal, a silhouette of a pointer dog above the quote: “Evil thrives when good men do nothing.” One member, in combat boots and fingerless gloves, also wore a baseball cap that read, “Border Patrol.”

The Community Watchdog Project formed in September in response mainly to the ID card program, said Felder. “We’re the ones watching the candy store,” said another member of the group with a smile.

The Other Voices

Though they were outnumbered, there were members of the audience who spoke up in favor of the rights of illegal immigrants.

Father Jim Manship, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church, spoke for his parish, which includes many Mexican and Latin American immigrants. “This is a community that wants to belong,” said Manship. He argued that the United States has enacted trade policies that have crippled economies in Latin America and forced many of its residents to come to the U.S. to find work. “They come to where they can feed their children,” said Manship.

Asked after the meeting why there weren’t more people at the meeting supporting immigrant rights, Manship said he thought that a lot of people were busy.

With combed-back hair and a sharp suit, Dustin “Digger” Gold (pictured at top of story, center), “chief strategist” for the Community Watchdog Project, offered a different theory. “Maybe they heard that I.C.E. [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] was going to be here,” he said smiling. Gold said that he had appeared that morning on the Jerry Kristafer Show on WELI. When asked on the radio if he thought a lot of immigrants would show up to the town meeting, Gold had joked that he hoped so because he had “called I.C.E. to come and round them up.”

The Panel

The panel itself was a study in contrasts. On the city level, Danbury Mayor Boughton (at right in picture) and Alderman Shah (at left) represented opposite sides of the immigration issue. Boughton has gained some notoriety for his city’s cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agencies and his outspoken opposition to immigration. Under his direction, Danbury police may soon begin a program to work with the Department of Homeland Security to identify illegal immigrants in the city.

120607_0232.jpgOn the other hand, there was Alderman Shah, representing the city of New Haven, which has gained nationwide attention for an ID card program that issues cards to illegal immigrants. Shah, wearing a tie and black leather vest, was sitting in for Mayor DeStefano, who was unable to attend.

On the state level, the contrast was between Sen. Meyer and Rep. Candelora. Meyer, wearing a stars-and-stripes tie, was a sponsor of legislation that would have allowed the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition, had it not been vetoed by Gov. Rell. Candelora, sitting next to Meyer, not only voted against the tuition bill, but proposed legislation that would have made New Haven’s ID card program illegal.

All of the panelists agreed that the immigration problems facing the cities and towns of the state of Connecticut are the result of a policy failure at the federal level.

Both Boughton and Candelora expressed a fierce loyalty to Connecticut residents who are official citizens. Boughton said that in his interactions with undocumented residents of Danbury, he finds that they are “nice people and good” but that he “cannot condone or excuse that their first step into this country was to break the law.” Candelora said that there are limited resources in Connecticut and that “we need to make sure that money is going to Connecticut residents.”


Walking out of the library after the meeting, Shawn Upton was kicking himself for not going to the microphone during the actual town meeting. He would have liked to have lent a point of view different from that of the Community Watchdog Project. “It’s not really a public debate if eight people from one group are asking all the questions,” he said, stepping into the cold night air.

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Posted by: cedarhillresident [TypeKey Profile Page] | December 7, 2007 8:55 AM

I did go... I was one of the people that participated in the Gateway gathering. The original date set for this was Nov 20th, but they had to change it. I think that was the only reason there were not as many people. I had to leave early because of business obligations, so I did not get the change to stand up and speak.

I understand both sides of the argument and all points are valid ones but....there is a reality here. We let all these people come in. Yes we let them in! The government did little to enforce there laws. Now these immigrants are my neighbors and community members, friends and my childrens friends. What do you want to happen with these people "Watch Dog's"?? What is the solution that will work for all???

Posted by: Hannah Greaves | December 7, 2007 9:48 AM

I also went to the meeting, and was able to ask one of my questions to the panel. Overall, I appreciated the event as a chance to hear different legislators' points of view, and though I don't agree with some of them, it was encouraging to see public leaders being willing to make themselves available to forums like this to be questioned on their beliefs and policies, especially on such a controversial topic. I hope there will be more events like this.

As for the low turn-out issue on the side of immigration rights advocates, I had been under the impression that the event was invitation only, since I received an e-mail about the forum saying that there were limited spaces and that all participants had to RSVP. Had I known it was open to the public, I would have invited many others to come and participate.

Posted by: elmcityguy | December 7, 2007 10:28 AM

This isn't a popular opinion here, but I don't mind people going after the employers. If the employer can't find legal employees willing to do the job for the price they are offering, they are offering too little. Upton finds his excuses for breaking the law, but all he is doing is lowering the standard of living for the whole community. It's OK for him to benefit from breaking the law, but someone else needs to pay for him to follow it. It's nice he feels it's OK to pick and choose which laws to follow.

Posted by: Bill Strong | December 7, 2007 10:40 AM

In my reading on illegal immigration through out our Country, I am puzzled by the California Catholic Leadership and the Christian Coalition for Immigration Reforms stance.
First let me tell of my families background. My ancestors( Jacob and Emmanuel VanMetern) not only translated the bible into English, they printed and published it. They founded one of the First Churches in this Nation at Whitset North Carolina it still stands today.
Now on to my bewilderment of the formers views.
When someone crosses the border they trespass against their neighbor.Yes I agree we should forgive the trespass ( a sin), yet I cannot find anywhere in Gods words where it says to go on committing a sin after you were forgiven.
Case in point, when the young adulteress was about to be stoned, Jesus said let he who have no sin cast the first stone, none were thrown because all had sinned. Then Jesus told the young adulteress "To go and sin no more'.
He didn't say you are forgiven go and keep on committing adultery. He doesn't say let you brother forgive you but continue to sin against your Brother.That would be defeating the whole purpose of forgiveness.
Even though we are to forgive those who have trespassed into our Country, the right thing would be for those who have trespassed to return home and trespass against their brothers no more.Come to our Country the right way and be welcomed.
Somehow many have tried to bend Gods words to suit their own purpose.They try manipulating words and phrases, take many out of context, and actually construct their own message. Their fate is written on the very last page of the Book.
I am not against Catholics,yet they have provided the perfect example.
We all remember the fiasco over pedophilia, did the Church forgive the perpetrators then allow them to go on committing the atrocity? Why not? Answer because it would be sinful to do so.
When did it become all right to continue sinning? When it put people in the pews, and money in the coffers? Seems that would be piling on the sin, and cause more sins and more to sin.
I understand the greed of big business, and the desperation of a candidate who thinks they need illegal votes to win, what I don't understand is anyone who claims to represent the Almighty and yet condones wrong doing.
Bill Strong-CHOICE

Posted by: THREEFIFTHS | December 7, 2007 11:09 AM

The Solution is call ICE And Have Them Removed!!!
That What I Will Do I.D Card Or Not.Second Look At Statement Made By Upton That He Hires Immigrant Workers Because He Canot find American workers who are dependable and willing to do the job and are not drug users. I Am Sick And Tired Of People Making These Statements Which Are Not True.Hey Upton Have You Try Going To The High Schools I Know Kids Who Will Do A Good Job, I See Them Cutting And Mowing There Own Lawns,Also The Mexican Mafia Are Very High Up In The Drug Trade
In Los Angeles County. So Stop With The StereoType
Of American People Because We Do The Work But We Want To Be Paid A Fair Wage!!! P.S. I Forgot How About The Politicians Who Are Not dependable and Sell The People out.

Posted by: Fair Trade | December 7, 2007 1:26 PM

Bill, have you considered that the US government is and has been also sinning against the people of Latin America with its unfair trade policies that leave their economies in ruins? And that American businesses are also doing so by taking advantage of immigrants' (legal or otherwise) situations to overwork, underpay, and mistreat them? Yes, two wrongs don't make a right, but maybe once our government and businesses repent and stop sinning out of greed, people in poverty all over the world won't feel the need to do so in order to survive.

You also seem to be forgetting a large number of verses in the Bible about treating "aliens" (I'm quoting from the New International Version here) justly. I think this is my favorite, Leviticus 19:33-34: 33 " 'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. 34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."

Posted by: Unidad Latina en Accion | December 8, 2007 7:29 AM

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Posted by: Rafael Ramos | December 8, 2007 3:51 PM

Its too bad that we are still using the "Watch Dogs" on Human Beings.

Posted by: cedarhillresident [TypeKey Profile Page] | December 9, 2007 9:49 AM


14 million.......what are we going to do load them up in trains and hall them off??? hmmm ...gee I remember my grandfather (Italian stone cutter) saying people would shout "ship them back were they came from" My Irish family in the 1800's working in sweat shops. (potato eaten red nose intruders that don't belong). Every new group has found there place in this country...and helped to make the economy work...if we work and fight with this new did people back in the 1800's with the irsh and the 1900's with the Italian's... not to mention with womens rights and civil rights this can work for all. Until this country UNITS (which my guess is that is the last thing the government wants)and fight as one this is going to be a long lasting problem. Fight for a solution, not against a people.

Posted by: Shawn | December 10, 2007 1:38 AM

(Posted to Three Fifth to CedarHillResident:
The Solution is call ICE And Have Them Removed!!!
That What I Will Do I.D Card Or Not.Second Look At Statement Made By Upton That He Hires Immigrant Workers Because He Canot find American workers who are dependable and willing to do the job and are not drug users. I Am Sick And Tired Of People Making These Statements Which Are Not True.Hey Upton Have You Try Going To The High Schools I Know Kids Who Will Do A Good Job, I See Them Cutting And Mowing There Own Lawns)

Let me start by saying that I think there are plenty of Americans with good work ethics. I would like to hire one or more. I do not think all American Workers do drugs. It is just some of the baggage that comes with the available pool of American Workers seeking employment from small businesses in my Industry as well as others.

I also think it is important to work and more Americans should work or should have the opportunity to work.

I'm willing to work with you on this mission of getting more Americans hired in American jobs. It wont be easy. I'll change my lifestyle and my approach to the issue and I expect you to change yours as well.

If I took your immediate advice and hired some high school kids I guess from June 21 to August 31 I would have an available workforce. But then what would I do about the other 9 1/2 months. (Even if you considered lawn cutting as my only service, it is performed from early April thru the beginning of December.) I'll pick them up after school and work half days from say 2 p.m. till 6 p.m. Then I would work weekends to pick up a 40 hour work week.

How many high school kids do you employ currently?
Do they have time to work 40 hours and do all their school work successfully? That seems like it is a lot to juggle.

So it's the middle of the winter and it is snowing at midnight. The public schools are most likely opening with a 90 minute delay. However, the properties that I service need to be done ASAP.

I could try to encourage my high school employees that they would be better off earning ~$125 than being rested for school or possibly they could sleep afterwards and skip school.
If they come to work-they lose, and if they go to school-I lose.
The other option would be to ask my clients for leniency and tell them I will be there to remove the snow/ice sometime after 2 p.m. Would your company grant me this delay without seeking new snow removal service?

Let's get into the basics-What should the high school kids starting salaries be? Should I pay them your FAIR WAGE? Should I offer overtime at time and a half or double time if they skip school to work with me?

Again, Do you own a company or run a business?
If you do not have a company then I guess you could not legally employ a high school kid. But I assume you have a job. Do you work alongside high school kids? Are they able to fill in for you at your position?

If I'm wrong I apologize ahead of time, but
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume your answers are all "No".

I'm not taking your comment as a personal attack on me. You are actually trying to help me but it sounds like you don't value Landscaping as a REAL profession if all I need are kids to do the work.
You are not alone in your thoughts. Most people that have never owned a business or who don't view Landscaping as a "profession" share the same mindset.

I consider all trades and jobs as having the potential to be a profession-which would include Landscaping, other service industries, and whatever your job position is.

This idea of a "grunt" job that a high school kid could do is stronger than you think. When people find out I do Landscaping, they cautiously ask me if I own my own business and when I reply yes, sometimes there is a relief in the questioning about the job-as in at least I am the boss. Most Americans don't think that the lower rungs of a landscaping company is a career position.

Please explain why my industry, or any other industry, should be responsible for picking up the slack temporary for high school kids or unemployed American workers who just need a filler job until something easier and/or better comes along. I'm approached on a regular basis with these scenarios.

What type of work do you do when you are out of work? Or do you have a secure job?

So...Cedar Hill Resident-Do you hire a landscaper for your yard work? And if so, is it a company, just a guy with a truck, or a neighborhood kid?

Do you hire licensed contractors for home improvement projects?
Do you hire companies who carry proper insurance and pay workers' comp?

If you do not currently own or run a business, tell me when you last did and what it was. I'm interested in your experiences as an employer.

There are very good American Workers, I agree with you on that. If I was concerned about having more jobs for Americans I would take a strong stance against companies who closed in the States and open up in other countries and are able to bring their products back into the country without paying an American Unemployment Tariff.

You are protesting me hiring someone in a position which you do not want yourself, but did you protest when say 80% of the US Steel Industry went overseas over the past 20-30 years. Those were American jobs that went to non-Americans.

Stanley was a Connecticut based company and relocated. Do you buy any of their products? If you wanna get a bargain, they have good prices at Wal-Mart.

I'm assuming you aready have boycotted Wal-Mart for its atrocities on the American Worker and their wonderful ability to strangle small businesses to death by using their time tested formula and getting city tax dollars to subsidize their electrical bill. You had to have stopped shopping there a long time ago when you realized that they have the power (which they remind the public of) that if workers or politicians or anyone demands better compensation for employees
they will just abandon the building and start over in a more favorable town.

I have hired Americans, I currently hire Americans, and would like to hire Americans who I thought were going to stick around for more than a couple months. But the question I always ask someone like you is-If I do hire an American and should it not work out (meaning-the employee only lasts a couple months) would you compensate me for my failed investment?

I am curious to your employment and why you are so against how positions get filled in my company if you yourself do not want the job.

Please tell me what work you do? I wont ask your salary but what is there job security and how long have you been there? and what value work has in your life?

I'd like this to be a continuing discussion and look forward to your comments and thoughts.


Posted by: THREEFIFTHS | December 10, 2007 3:57 PM

First Read You Statement In Which You Said That You Hire Immigrants Because You Can't Find American Workers Who Are Dependable And Willing To Do The Job And Are Not Drug Users. Sound To Me That You Are Saying That American Workers Are Drug
Users!!! Second You Said That Some American Workers Have Baggage And The Immigrant Donot Have Baggage, Let Us Take A Look At There Baggage Which
Is They Are Here Illegal And That Is Call Breaking
The Law. Have You Try To Hire People In The Homeless Shelters I Have And They Are Dame Good Workers And Are American Citizens And I Pay Them
Good Wages.In Fact I Run A Family Own Realestate
Business And When Work Has To Be Done To The Property Again I Pay Fair Wages That Me And The Workers Can Agree Upon. Bottom Line You Want Slave
Servants Thatyou control Not Like Us American workers Who You Can't Control.
Last Even The Great Labor Leader Cesar Chavez Was Opposed To The Use Of Legal And Immigration To Keep Low Wages And That All Are Paid Fair Wages!!

Posted by: Steve | December 10, 2007 8:03 PM

I'm not convinced that illegal immigrants are anywhere near the criminal problem those on the anti-immigration side suggest. I've seen random videos and reports of illegal immigrants driving drunk or robbing somebody, but i'm really suspicious that those reports are in any way representative of the "average" illegal immigrant. It makes a lot more sense to me that they're trying to stay low-key so they can work, make some money and help their families back home. As for illegal immigrants taking jobs from U.S. citizens, I can't help but think that a real solution would be to make it so they don't have to leave their home countries and families in the first place. It seems that that'd be one way to satisfy all sides. After all, if we care about our family and we were living in a third-world country, we'd all probably at least consider trying to get into a country like the U.S. so we can help make a better life for our loved ones. Pressuring our representatives to encourage better working conditions and better pay for those we're demonizing would probably be a more effective solution, and certainly one that's less hateful.

Posted by: THREEFIFTHS | December 10, 2007 11:00 PM

Google In Racial Cleansing In L.A. And You Will See How Latino Gangs Are Targeting Blacks, Also Rember Newark New Jersey And The Execution style
Killing Of The Three African American College Students By Ms-13 Gang Members, Do Some Homework
And You Will Find That Illegal Immigrant Gangs Are On The Rise And Ms-13 Is One Of The Biggest In This Country.

Posted by: Steve | December 11, 2007 11:30 AM

Threefifths, I do do my homework, which is why I'm unconvinced of the supposed threat illegal immigrants pose. You see, my homework involves much more than google searches, though your examples seem to make my point about random acts being used to support the belief that illegal immigrants are somehow a real criminal threat. I can google anything and find data to support whatever cause I want, it doesn't mean that what I'm saying is actually happening. You may want to look into the actual research by people who study this stuff. Check out Douglas Massey or Katherine Donato for some examples. They're real social scientists who've studied different forms of immigration for decades. I'd rather trust what people who actually study this stuff say than what I find on a random google search. Which, again, is why I don't believe much of what anti-immigration groups say about immigration, they don't do the research and they base their arguments on either questionable data or selective examples.

Think about it, why would anyone leave their loved ones and risk their life to get into another country and then rob, steal and shoot people. I guess I could believe that if I actually thought that most people immigrating to the U.S. did so explicitly to harm people here, but that would not make any sense given what's known about immigration and reasons why people immigrate, plus, it would be completely inconsistent with the couple people I do know who came to this country illegally. Also, what about those who aren't brown and from Latin America? Are they just as much of a "problem?" Arguably, folks coming here from Europe, Asia, or India are taking well-paying jobs. Plus, what about the criminal threat they pose? I'm sure we can do a google search and find some examples of people from India committing crimes. Where's the anger against them?

I just have a hard time following this form of logic. There's too many holes and inconsistencies, and it seems more emotionally driven than driven based on any empirical support. So, again, I remain unconvinced of this so-called illegal immigrant threat.

Posted by: cedarhillresident [TypeKey Profile Page] | December 11, 2007 3:48 PM


did you read the comments????

my comments and 3/5's are at to ends of the scale??
read the comments first!

Second I support immigrants!! I stand with them!! And my brother is a landscaper so YES I do totally understand the issues. He complains about the same thing!!

Posted by: THREEFIFTHS | December 11, 2007 6:27 PM

Ms-13 Is Real In Fact In Norwalk They Are On The Rise.Second I Got My Data From The FBI website On
Immgrant Gangs.So If You Feel Safe How About Leting Ms-13 Live Next Door To You.

Posted by: THREEFIFTHS | December 11, 2007 6:33 PM

I Forgot How Come Haitians Are Sent Back But We Fight To Keep Other Immgrant Groups Here?

Posted by: Ned | December 12, 2007 8:40 AM

Grown men parading around, in pseudo para-militray drag, has an obvious, repressed sexual component to it... LOL

If people are willing to pay someone to smuggle them, across the U.S. border, why not just charge them the same amount of money to purchase citizenship? Discounts for people with advanced degrees, or those displaced by American foreign policy blunders: Iraq, Plan Columbia, etc...

Posted by: Steve | December 12, 2007 9:36 AM

Threefifths, I'm not disputing that Ms-13 is real. I'm aware of them and I don't want any gange living near me or in my neighborhoods. But lets not pretend for a second that just because Ms-13 is composed of people from Latin America that all of a sudded every immigrant from Latin America is in Ms-13. You see, that's where I find problems with your argument and the basic arguments of the anti-immigrant positions that I'm aware of. It's a basic flaw in logic. Did you know that women are the fastest growing prison population in the counrty? That's true. You can probably find it on the FBI's website. Then does that mean all women are criminals and should be locked up? I enjoy living near women. Obviously such an arguement about women doesn't make any sense, though I can use a google search to find pictures and videos of women committing crimes to support my preconceived notions. Do you know anyone who's from Latin America or who's an illegal immigrant in real life, or is everything you know from television, the internet, or a friend of a friend? Again, I just can get myself to support your position, on pure reason it's way to shallow and weak of an argument.

I don't understand your Haiti example.

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