Carlos Sandoval Speaks to MamaVote

When Carlos Sandoval saw a backlash against immigrants in his community he, along with Catherine Tambini, produced and directed the 2004 Sundance award-winning documentary, “Farmingville”.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Carlos Sandoval was living on Long Island, New York, in 2000 when he began noticing an increase in Latino immigrants in the Manhattan bedroom communities that dot the island.

His initial reaction was one of nostalgia.

A sixth-generation American of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, Sandoval grew up in Los Angeles in the 1950s and although his father had other work they occasionally hired themselves out to do yard work for a little extra money.

“I saw people arriving with pick up trucks and lawnmowers in the back like we used to do,” Sandoval said.

But then hate filled editorials began appearing in the local newspapers. Residents were referring to the influx of immigrants as “an invasion of locusts.” In September 2001, two Mexican day laborers were beaten and stabbed nearly to death in what was deemed a hate crime.

Sandoval’s nostalgia turned to shock.

“This wasn’t the southwest along the border. This was the new millennium in the North Eastern United States,” Sandoval said. “When I started seeing a welcome reception turning to hostility that was what shocked me, seeing that rather sudden transition.”

Sandoval, a lawyer and writer who had worked on immigration and refugee affairs as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, felt he need to document what was going on. He founded Camino Bluff Productions and along with Catherine Tambini produced and directed the 2004 Sundance award-winning documentary “Farmingville” _ named after the Long Island city where the immigration issue had flared into a hate crime.

“I didn’t realize (at the time) what was going on reflected what was going on across America,” Sandoval said. “What surprised me was the way the story became national so quickly.”

Now, the issue of illegal immigration is a staple of American political discourse, along with the economy or health care. It is an issue that can escalate quickly into a heated debate.

While there was plenty of hate-fueled reaction to the influx of day-laborers in Farmingville, most of the residents were still being fairly reasonable, Sandoval said. He thought if he took the time to ask those who were shouting the loudest on either side what was bothering them that it would stimulate a healthier dialogue.

“That if people would feel that they were being heard that they would open themselves up to hear the others,” he said. “I think my greatest disappointment is that those things have gotten more polarized in the time since.”

But, Sandoval says, there were small glimmers of hope.

While filming, a resident named Louise approached Tambini fed up with how homes in her neighborhood were becoming run-down with sometimes dozens of immigrants living in one single-family home. Rents were cheaper in Farmingville and several landlords were happy to capitalize on the influx by crowding a lot of people into one house.

Since the documentary, Louise has organized a community clean-up. Rather than working for or against the immigrants she invited everyone to help solve one of the community’s problems, he said.

“Taking that positive step, doing something as simple as organizing a cleanup day and making it about the community, that can be a bridge builder,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval knows that there are no easy answers when it comes to immigration. He just hopes by telling the stories of those involved he can humanize the debate.

“These are human beings. They are seeking out a better life,” Sandoval said. “It’s why our grandparents and great-grandparents came over. I think that trying to find that commonality and trying to get past the labels and understand the humanity, it takes that kind of understanding.”

Comment

Related

MamaVote Talks to Cokie Roberts

She’s an award winning reporter and news analyst and one of the most recognized faces in television news, but Cokie Roberts will tell you that none of it was ever her plan.

MamaVote Speaks to Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite

A connection with her community and the needs of the residents living there gave Representative Ginny Brown-Waite the inspiration to get involved with an issue – an act that launched her into a career as an elected official. In this exclusive MamaVote interview, Brown-Waite shares her story.

Talking About Real Change with Mimi Silbert

Talking about change and actually making it happen are two very different things. With doctorates in Psychology and Criminology, Mimi Silbert was uniquely qualified to found the Delancey Street Foundation, a long-term program devoted to rehabilitating criminals. Read how Silbert’s committed to the community impacted her family in this exclusive MamaVote interview.

MamaVote Featured Blogs for 10/20/08

Forget pundits – we’re interested in what parents have to say about the Presidential Election. This week we’re featuring political Mama bloggers - one conservative and one liberal, side by side.