Then Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi grabbed national headlines in 2007 when he stood up to abuses by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents during raids in the county.
Immigration police arrested dozens of Latinos without warrant and paraded them in front of the media as dangerous gang members. The Suozzi administration embarrassed ICE when it revealed that 90 percent of those arrested had no connection to gangs or criminal activity.
Tom Suozzi’s history of working with Long Island immigrants goes back to 1990 when a conservative mayor in his hometown of Glen Cove campaigned to drive immigrant day laborers out of the area.
Suozzi, then a young community activist, wanted to bring both sides together to find a solution that provided a safe place for the workers to gather, and that also addressed the sanitation and public safety needs of local residents. He came up with a plan to create one of the first day laborer centers on the East Coast.
When he was later elected mayor of Glen Cove, Suozzi showed that pursuing workable plans for the incorporation of new immigrants into Long Island life was not a political kiss of death.
Suozzi’s election as county executive was followed by the rise of Steve Levy in Suffolk. The stark contrast between the two politicians showed how badly Nassau’s relations with its foreign-born communities could have been with different leadership. Instead of imitating Levy’s strategy of dividing immigrants from the native born, Suozzi made every effort to highlight the contributions of immigrants to the county, incorporate immigrants into county government, and provide forums for emerging communities to be heard.
The New York Immigration Coalition selected Tom Suozzi as its guest of honor this year because he is an example of how political leaders in suburban communities can make immigrants full participants in the economic and cultural growth of their counties.
The New York Immigration Coalition’s 7th Annual Builders of the New New York Awards Dinner
The Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom, 311 West 34th Street, Manhattan, June 2, 6-10pm, for more information please email Susan Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-627-2227 x244