Debating Immigration in the New York Election

Monday, October 04, 2010

Protestors participate in a 'March For America' demonstration calling for immigration reform near the Washington Monument March 21, 2010 in Washington, DC. Protestors participate in a 'March For America' demonstration calling for immigration reform near the Washington Monument March 21, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC.On this morning's Brian Lehrer Show 30 Issues in 30 Days tackled immigration policy.

Randy Altschuler, Republican and Conservative Party nominee for Congress from New York's 1st District on Long Island and Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition discussed legal and illegal immigration to the region on today's Brian Lehrer Show.

Altschuler took pains to establish himself as pro-immigrant, but against illegal immigration, saying the country needed to enforce existing laws and stem the flow of illegal migrants over borders he described as "porous." The congressional candidate says he opposes amnesty for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States and opposes most suggestions for comprehensive immigration reform. He also opposes The Dream Act, which would legalize illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children and complete two years of college or two years in the military, he said. Altschuler repeatedly advocated for individual, case by case solutions for otherwise law-abiding people in the United States illegally.

"There needs to be a process and there needs to be a penalty for people here illegally," he said.

Altschuler rejected the premise of the Question of the Day True/False: The United States Has Too Many Immigrants. 

People aren't upset about immigrants coming to this country. And irregardless we have a proud, Dominican, Mexican, lots of different communities here. That's not the issue. The issue is folks coming here illegally. There is not a right number of illegal immigrants. In all cases we don't support illegal immigration. We want legal immigrants...There is no such thing as too many immigrants. This is a country of immigrants. The question is illegal immigration. That's what we oppose. Not immigration. Of course not.

Chung-Wha Hong, of the New York Immigration Coalition said political discussions about immigration often operate without facts. She argued immigrants should be understood as creating an economic growth. "It is just simply true that where there is growth there is immigration, and where there is immigration there is economic growth," she said.

Immigrants generate a quarter of New York State's GDP, $229 billion in economic activity and employ a 250,000 New Yorkers, Hong said. Some illegal immigrants pay income taxes and legal green card holders pay taxes but are barred from receiving medicaid benefits for five years, she said. 

Responding to a caller who argued that illegal immigrants have large numbers of children and make use of public benefits such as schools, parks and hospitals, she counseled looking at the big picture. "I think if you look at the overall immigrant contributions, they are definitely on the revenue-generating, job-creating positive column," she said, noting that over a third of immigrants are working age.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo should be more outspoken about immigration, she said. "Cuomo could be a lot more aggressive in laying out his immigrant policy vision and platform," she said. Neither he nor Carl Paladino has responded to a New York Immigration Coalition questionairre attempting to pinpoint their positions on various immigration issues.

Listen to the entire discussion on The Brian Lehrer Show.


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Comments [1]

Rebecca from Huntsville AL

I know that immigration reform is a dirty word with the mid term elections coming but we cannot let immigration reform be forgotten. I have been married for over two years to a wonderful man who is a Mexican national. We also have two beautiful little boys. Ray will be three in March- he is actually my grandson but we have custody and are trying to adopt him. Sammy will be two in November. My husband Samuel is a wonderful father and husband and I am so blessed to have him in our lives. I admit that he as been in the United States for ten years illegally and I knew this when I married him. I do not hold this against him because once I visited his home in Mexico I understood why so many people risk their lives to come to the United States.
After a couple of years of marriage, we wanted to do the right thing so Samuel returned to Mexico until we could get him home legally. When he went for his interview at the American Embassy, they slapped him with a big fat denied and told him that he is bared from re-entering the United States for ten years. After the ten years he can reapply. We consulted immigration attorneys and there is no appeal process for our situation. In the meantime our family has been ripped apart. I have lost my husband and our boys have lost their father. Aren’t there enough fatherless children in this country???
This was in April. After a long, heartfelt discussion, we made the difficult decision to leave the boys in Mexico to stay with their father and grandparents. I work for the federal government in a management position and I work 50-60 hours a week. I have no family to help me so the boys would spend ALL day in daycare. We would rather for them to be with a large and loving extended family than cooped up in a day care center. The money I would be spending on daycare I use to fly down to visit every chance I get even if it’s for a long weekend. I have endured much criticism for this decision but I don’t know what else to do. I went from living the American dream to loosing my entire family.
I am being forced to choose between the country I love and my family. What happened to liberty and justice for all??? What kind of government creates laws that intentionally rip families apart??? And just think, this is supposed to be the greatest country on earth. Since we cannot live on love alone, I continue to work and send money to my family in Mexico and I go see them when I can. If something doesn’t happen soon then I will have to leave everything behind and move to Mexico so our family can be together.
People need to know the ugly truth about some of our immigration laws and why immigration reform is so important. Most people thick that once an immigrant marries a U.S. citizen then they are guaranteed legalization but that is so far from the truth. It needs to be known how these laws affect AMERICAN families and how AMERCIAN children are being torn away form the parents they love.

Oct. 05 2010 11:06 PM

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