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County chief executive signs bill aimed at illegal immigrants

County chief executive signs bill aimed at illegal immigrants

A suburban politician embroiled in the national debate over illegal immigration signed a local law Wednesday requiring companies with government contracts to verify their employees are in the United States legally.
"This is a victory of common sense over political correctness," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, co-founder of a national coalition called Mayors and Executives for Immigration Reform, Wednesday. "The goal is to ensure that companies that play by the rules are not put at a competitive disadvantage by those who cheat."
Last month, the county Legislature passed the proposal by a 15-3 vote, which was seen as anti-immigration by supporters of day laborers and others. Opponents fear the measure could exacerbate tensions in a region that has seen an influx of day laborers from abroad in the past decade _ along with a number of violent attacks.
But many labor unions supported the initiative, and Levy, a Democrat, also received backing from Republican Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security; part of King's district includes Suffolk County, on the eastern half of Long Island.
The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, applies to roughly 60 percent of the 10,000 companies and agencies that have county contracts. The penalties include fines and potential jail time, and repeat offenders could forfeit their contracts.
Recent national scrutiny of immigration policy has led to similar proposals around the nation. Earlier this year in Pennsylvania, the city of Hazleton passed legislation that would punish businesses that employ illegal immigrants and landlords who rent to them. In San Bernardino, California, an attempt to present a similar measure to voters was dismissed by the courts in June. And in Florida this summer, ordinances were voted down by city councils in Avon Park and Palm Bay.
The efforts followed an attempt in Congress to criminalize illegal immigration. That legislation is effectively dead this year.
"If the federal government won't do its job, it's up to the locals," Levy said Wednesday.
Suffolk County has drawn day laborers from Mexico and Central America over the past decade. Levy estimated that of the 1.5 million people living in the county, 40,000 are illegal immigrants.
In 2000, two men lured a pair of Mexican day laborers to an abandoned basement in the county with a promise of work and then beat them with tools. The men were convicted in separate trials in what prosecutors said was a racially motivated attack. In 2003, a group of teenagers armed with fireworks set fire to a Mexican family's home in Farmingville; there were no injuries, but the house was destroyed.


Updated : 2021-04-12 20:32 GMT+08:00