Suozzi and Long Island Leaders Agree on Immigration Approach
Roughly a year after Marcelo Lucero's murder, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi joined panelists from Long Island's labor, businesses, and faith communities to speak about common sense immigration policy solutions and the need for the federal government to reform our broken immigration system. The forum, Getting It Right for Long Island: Immigration in the 21st Century, was hosted by Long Island Wins and the Long Island Immigrant Alliance last Tuesday.
Suozzi argued that a broken immigration system has forced localities to deal with the issue of immigration. Localities, however, need to treat immigrants with "respect and dignity," he said. Suozzi and Sister Margaret Smyth, a local faith leader, agreed that immigrants should be allowed to fully integrate in our communities. Excluding immigrants and forcing local police to enforce immigration laws is bad public policy, Suozzi said. Suozzi continued by saying that local enforcement of immigration laws pushes immigrant communities underground and makes them fearful of local police, hurting everyone's safety:
If the police push you underground...what happens if you get beaten up or if you get robbed or if you're the victim of a crime? You're not going to feel comfortable going to the police.
Acknowledging that Long Island has experienced the consequences of a heated anti-immigrant debate, the panelists agreed that the rhetoric needs to change and that common sense immigration policies and immigration reform that benefits immigrants and Americans alike are needed. Matt Crosson, president of the Long Island Association, reminded the audience that if "Long Island develops a reputation as a place that fosters hate, businesses will undoubtedly suffer." "We don't want to be Skokie, IL," Crosson said, referring to locality most people recognize for a proposed neo-Nazi march.
To move beyond anti-immigrant sentiment and hate, Crosson argued, Long Island political leaders need to do their part. "The issue is not Steve Levy. The issue is the practice of demagoguery. At one point Steve Levy's career as county executive will end. He'll go someplace else. What you have to do is persuade public officials that the practice is wrong."
The message of the panel was clear: common sense immigration policies and immigration reform that brings undocumented immigrants out of the shadows would strengthen Long Island's economy and everyone's workplace rights.