Farmingville

Midway between the multiethnic melting pot of New York City and the predominantly white and wealthy Hamptons lies Farmingville, a historically quiet, middle-class suburb that became the unlikely flash point in the heated debate over immigration. Far from the U.S.-Mexican border as the town is, Farmingville is now one stop on an underground railroad of sorts...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Midway between the multiethnic melting pot of New York City and the predominantly white and wealthy Hamptons lies Farmingville, a historically quiet, middle-class suburb that became the unlikely flash point in the heated debate over immigration. Far from the U.S.-Mexican border as the town is, Farmingville is now one stop on an underground railroad of sorts that carries unemployed — and undocumented — men and women from their Mexican homes to destinations as remote as Long Island's hinterlands. Once settled in often criminally overcrowded residences, many of these undocumented aliens gather each morning on street corners around town in hopes that landscapers, construction crews and restaurant owners will hire them as menial day laborers. Many Farmingville residents regard these labor pools as a growing blight on their community, but the problem became front-page news when growing resentment exploded in a shocking act of violence. In 2000, two local men — one festooned with white-supremacist tattoos — used the promise of work to lure a pair of unsuspecting workers to an abandoned warehouse and beat them nearly to death. The incident brought unwelcome national attention to a long-simmering local problem, drawing hate groups and anti-immigration lobbies to Eastern Long Island and further splintering a community already divided over the issue of dealing with this sudden population influx. Anti-immigrant groups like Sachem Quality of Life strongly advocated the wholesale deportation of workers, who had become an important part of the community's "subterranean economy." Immigrant-support groups and local politicians suggested that creating a local hiring center would not only get laborers off the streets, but protect them from harassment. Meanwhile, frustrated homeowners who might not otherwise have objected to such a population shift found themselves living across the street from overcrowded houses that turned their quiet streets into noisy thoroughfares choked with cars and trucks. To better understand this volatile and complicated situation, filmmakers Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Sambini spent a year living and working in Farmingville. They interviewed representatives on both sides of the issue as well as workers themselves, many of whom are educated, hardworking men far from home and with no refuge from the violence that now threatens them. The subject is a documentary filmmaker's dream come true — the town of Farmingville offers a national crisis in microcosm — and Sandoval and Sambini make the most of the opportunity, producing a film that is as complex as the issue it tackles.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Midway between the multiethnic melting pot of New York City and the predominantly white and wealthy Hamptons lies Farmingville, a historically quiet, middle-class suburb that became the unlikely flash point in the heated debate over immigration. Far from t… (more)

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