Tuesday, June 08, 2004 - Long Island News - Long Island News


Immigration initiative defeated
Measure sought enforcement of existing laws

All Island Mason Supply
Giovanni Rosso Elegant Living
Giovanni Rosso Elegant Living
American A.W.S.


June 8, 2004, 9:25 PM EDT

Suffolk lawmakers Tuesday narrowly defeated a controversial resolution urging the federal government to enforce existing immigration laws, a surprise decision that left a packed audience of immigrant advocates on their feet and vigorously applauding.

Nine legislators, all Republicans, voted for the measure, one short of the number needed for passage in the 18-member body. Seven lawmakers voted against it and two abstained.

Though the resolution was entirely symbolic, weighing in on such a sensitive issue would inflame tensions on a topic that has polarized the county like few others, advocates said.

"We saw English-only bills, we saw bills tying immigrants into crime waves," Patrick Young, head of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, said of bills introduced in previous years. "We saw bills against hiring halls. We've seen one bill after another and basically the message that always came through was Latinos and immigrants aren't wanted here in Suffolk County."

Legis. Vivian Viloria-Fisher (D-East Setauket) called for an unscheduled vote on the resolution due to the large number of people who came out to speak against it. The sponsor of the resolution, Legis. Michael Caracciolo (R-Baiting Hollow), made an unsuccessful attempt to table it.

"I think it's quite apparent that today we have in the audience one group of -- some are residents, some are not -- of Suffolk County, who are here to speak in opposition," Caraccioli said. "I would like the opportunity... to bring those in support."

The resolution brought some lawmakers, including Elie Mystal (D-Amityville), Ricardo Montano (D-Brentwood) and Viloria-Fisher to their feet. "I am an immigrant and this bill is hatred," Mystal, who is from Haiti, said dramatically, as the audience broke into applause.

Speaking most vehemently against the resolution, however, was a Republican, Legis. Paul Tonna of West Hills. Tonna said that even the federal government acknowledges that it needs to revamp its immigration policies. "The fact is that in the history of the United States there's been a lot of unjust laws, this being one of them," Tonna said. "... I don't want the enforcement of this law because I think these laws are bad laws. They don't work."
Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.


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