NY Times- Congressman Endorses Suffolk County Plan to Ban Contractors From Using Illegal Immigrants

By:  Pete King
Date: Aug. 17, 2006
Location: Hauppauge, N.Y.


NY Times- Congressman Endorses Suffolk County Plan to Ban Contractors From Using Illegal Immigrants
Thursday August 17, 2006

From NY Times:
Congressman Endorses Suffolk County Plan to Ban Contractors From Using Illegal Immigrants

By BRUCE LAMBERT

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y., Aug. 16 — Suffolk County's plan to prohibit local government contractors from hiring illegal immigrants won an endorsement on Wednesday from a key member of Congress on domestic security issues, who urged communities across the nation to follow the county's example in grappling with immigration.

Until the federal government itself gets the problem under control, Suffolk's proposed law "should be emulated throughout the country," said Representative Peter T. King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, who sees immigration as a security issue as well as an economic one.

Mr. King, whose district includes part of Suffolk, spoke at a news conference here with County Executive Steve Levy, who drafted the legislation. The congressman said local actions would prod Washington, where his own immigration bill has passed the House but not the Senate. That measure would authorize a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border; raise the crime of illegal immigration to a felony; and criminalize giving assistance, including food and water, to illegal immigrants.

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The Suffolk bill is the latest turn in a long-running and strident debate on Long Island, where Mr. Levy has drawn both praise and criticism for his crackdown on illegal immigration. Previously he proposed but backed away from a plan to deputize county police officers to help enforce immigration laws. Last year he was accused of failing to provide county aid to relocate tenants evicted when the Town of Brookhaven raided homes overcrowded with dozens of immigrants.

The new legislation is sharply opposed by various religious and immigrant groups and some labor unions. This week the Long Island Council of Churches weighed in against it. But the proposal has overwhelming backing in the Suffolk County Legislature, which is expected to adopt it next month.

Mr. Levy said the public also widely supported the proposed ban. The critics "are trumped by a 10-to-1 margin from everyday residents who say, ‘Thank goodness, it's about time,' " he said.

Mr. King agreed. "The American people have spoken loudly and clearly that they want to stop illegal immigration," he said.

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Though some people have objected that the county legislation duplicates existing federal law, Mr. Levy says the law is unenforced. So does Mr. King, who said "there's a real failure on the part of the federal government."

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Mr. Levy, a Democrat, was flanked Wednesday by construction union leaders who support his bill. Mr. King, who is a Republican, said the issue cuts across party lines.

"I don't know anyone in the country who is more reflecting the view of the American people than Steve Levy, and he does it under terrible abuse, attack and distortion," Mr. King said. "He is standing up, and I give him credit for doing it."

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