Editorial: Lady Liberty goes on trial

Editorial: Lady Liberty goes on trial

While it is disappointing, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s opposition to housing some of the thousands of migrants to New York City at the Nassau Coliseum is hardly surprising.

The county has consistently discouraged a large number of actual U.S. citizens from moving to Nassau, using some of the most restrictive zoning laws in the country to keep young couples and others with little wealth from moving here.

County, town and village officials of both parties vehemently opposed two efforts by Gov. Kathy Hochul to address a shortage of 800,000 housing units in New York City and its suburbs.

They said the decision should be left to local officials who have in the past failed to approve new housing in sufficient numbers.

So, migrants?

Even those traveling thousands of miles to flee persecution under the protection of U.S. and international law who apply for asylum.

Don’t be silly.

“Let me make it clear — one more time — Nassau County is not a sanctuary county. We have no plans to have any migrant program here in Nassau County,” Blakeman said.

In doing so, Blakeman conflated the term sanctuary city, which is a municipality that limits its cooperation with the national government in enforcing immigration law against undocumented immigrants who are not in the U.S. legally and asylum seekers.

The migrants are here legally, awaiting a hearing on whether they qualify for asylum. Blakeman is a lawyer and we assume he knows the difference.

Hank Sheinkopf, a Manhattan-based political strategist who has worked for Democratic and Republican candidates, said Blakeman is “taking a page from the Nassau GOP political playbook” when he publicly states his stance on the migrant issue.

“This is perfect Nassau GOP fodder so they can use the same playbook they always have in sending a message that they will protect the suburbs from the city,” Sheinkopf told Newsday.

It is a playbook that goes back many years.

Robert Hayes, a lawyer originally from Valley Stream, successfully sued Nassau in the 1980s and won a permanent settlement mandating emergency shelter for homeless families 24/7.

Hayes, who also won a lawsuit requiring New York City to provide shelter to homeless people, told Newsday in 1987 that Nassau is “notorious for being the least helpful to poor people in the state.”

So same old, same old in Nassau.

But the opposition to housing some of the 100,000 migrants who have come to New York City is not limited to Nassau County. City and county governments in New York, usually controlled by Republicans, have also opposed accepting migrants.

New York City officials announced a plan in May to send about 300 asylum seekers to hotels in Rockland and Orange counties, proposing to pay for their lodging and provide ancillary services for up to four months.

The counties quickly issued emergency declarations seeking to bar the city’s efforts.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day even threatened to grab New York City Mayor Eric Adams “by the throat” for trying to find an alternative to the city’s overwhelmed shelters, which are currently housing 58,000 migrants.

So much for the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor and Emma Lazarus’ words:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Perhaps we should throw a large tarp over the statue’s torch or, at least, Lazarus’ words. We wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.

Yes, 100,000 migrants coming to New York City is a large number. And there are significant costs to accepting them – at least in the beginning before they get jobs and find housing on their own.

But nearly 10 million Ukrainians crossed the Polish-Ukranian border after Russia launched its unprovoked attack in February 2022.

They were met with information booths, volunteer translators and free coffee.

About 1.5 million of the refugees decided to stay in Poland where they were housed wherever there was space, including people’s homes.

In that context, 100,000 doesn’t sound quite as many. And the response of Blakeman and other New York officials is even less generous.

Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul have in recent weeks sharply criticized each other’s handling of the influx of migrants.

Adams accused the Hochul administration of dragging its feet on green-lighting a tent-style migrant shelter in the parking lot of Queens’ state-owned Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, a stone’s throw from the Nassau County line.

Hochul said the city failed to accept numerous state offers of assistance over the last year. And both sides have criticized the Biden administration for not providing enough help.

They have correctly called on Biden to approve a special authorization for the imigrants to seek work.

Once migrants arrive in the United States, they typically have to wait 180 days after filing a work application. That is way too long.

Adams and Hochul are also right to ask for more immigration judges to determine which migrants’ claims are legitimate and which are not. The process, which involves an extensive review, currently takes 18 months. That’s also too long.

The White House has pointed out that certain populations are already eligible for work. They also correctly said much of the bottleneck can be attributed to Congress’ failure to modernize the country’s decades-old immigration laws.

Sadly, a broken immigration system is useful politically for some – despite the damage to the country’s economy and the migrants.

The truth is that this country, including Nassau County, needs more immigrants, not less.

Immigrants — legal or otherwise — make better citizens than native-born Americans. They are more entrepreneurial. Less likely to have kids out of wedlock. Far less likely to commit crime.

More than half of the top American tech companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants

They include Apple founder Steve Jobs, the son of a Syrian immigrant; Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, a second-generation Cuban immigrant;  Google founder Sergey Brin, born in Russia; and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, a Brazilian native.

Immigrants are also needed to fill many of the millions of jobs for which no one is applying particularly in farming, home care and health care.

A study by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in 2017 found there were more than 2 million immigrants employed in New York City, representing 42 percent of all workers. And the unemployment rate for immigrants was below the citywide rate of 4.1 percent.

The U.S. fertility rate has fallen to a record low. Immigrants can help fill jobs at a time when Long Island is getting older. There are simply not enough native-born Americans to fill the jobs as baby boomers retire.

The same is true outside Long Island. Much of rural or small-town America is emptying out. In hundreds of rural counties, more people are dying than being born.

Buffalo’s population decreased from 532,759 in 1950 to 278,486 in 2020; Syracuse declined from 220,583 in 1950 to 148,620 in 2020; and Albany declined from 134,995 to 99,224 in 2020.

So there is no lack of room in the state for people willing to walk up to 2,000 miles in search of a better life – the kind of people who built this country.

Just a lack of imagination and empathy.

Hochul has rejected a call to press suburban communities in such as places Nassau as well as upstate areas, arguing that New York City is best equipped to absorb the influx because of its access to jobs and public transportation.

Perhaps she has been chastened by the reaction she got to her housing proposals. Perhaps she has been influenced by the opposition in upstate.

But that is not a reason for failing to do the right thing, which we believe could be done with the right combination of carrots and sticks.

This country has always prided itself on being a nation of immigrants and innovators.

Here is our chance, in New York and Nassau, to act like it.

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  1. You are grossly misinformed and misinforming.
    Immigrants legally gain access to be privileged as citizens
    Migrants are unfortunately played by politics of a hypocritical government
    No covid mandates!!!???
    And ONLY sanctuary cities are obligated to accept these individuals seeking assistance


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