Suozzi, King collaborate on bipartisan-minded immigration bill

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Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) is developing a bill with Rep. Peter King (R-Massapequa) as a bipartisan effort to address immigration. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

U.S. Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Peter King (R-Massapequa) announced this week that they are crafting an immigration reform bill that would give immigrants with temporary protective status and DACA status a path to citizenship while reinforcing southern border security and humanitarian aid in Central America.

The congressmen characterized the deal as a bipartisan effort coming from two politicians who hold different views on the issue in an op-ed published on the New York Times’ website Sunday titled “A Grand Compromise for Immigration.”

“The Republicans have a legitimate concern that the last time the country did a program to legalize folks they never did anything to stop the further migration,” Suozzi said in an interview. “You have to try and balance the two.”

The bill will offer Dreamers, or migrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors without documentation, as well as individuals with temporary protective status a path to citizenship.

To gain citizenship, they would have to pay a $2,000 fee.

Their relatives would also become eligible for protective status if they have resided in the U.S. “for a significant number of years” and do not have a criminal record, the legislators wrote in the op-ed.

With an estimated $10 billion in revenue from five million applicants, the government would direct $4.3 billion toward physical structures on the Southern border, $4.3 billion to nonphysical border reinforcement and aid to Central America and the other $1.4 billion to the administration of the citizenship program.

The physical structures on the border would extend about 700 miles, according to Newsday. New nonphysical structures would include Border Patrol hires, enhanced radar technology and improved ports of entry, Suozzi said.

The humanitarian aid would be directed to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and administered by the U.S. government or nonprofits, Suozzi said, and directed toward enhancing the quality of life as a means of preventing further out-migration.

The representatives estimate that 1.9 million Dreamers, 400,00 individuals with temporary protective status and 2.7 million of their relatives would make up the five million applicants.

“On Long Island, we have one of the 10 largest populations of undocumented immigrants from Central and South America, as well as countless unaccompanied minors,” King and Suozzi wrote in the New York Times article. “Many have been in our communities for decades living productive lives, attending school with our children, working six days a week and going to church on Sunday.”

Suozzi said that he has been dedicated to supporting migrants since his beginning in local politics.

“I’ve been working on this issue for 25 years,” he said. “My first speech as the City of Glen Cove mayor on Jan. 1 of 1994 included a big subject of the newcomers from Central and South America.”

In Glen Cove, he helped create an indoor space dedicated to day laborers seeking employment. This year, Suozzi brought a DACA recipient from Glen Cove to the State of the Union address.

He said he anticipates his new bill being a tough sell in a divided Congress despite its bipartisan ideals.

“I’m a naturally optimistic person, but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort to get this done,” he said.

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