Long Island has come a long way since the days of Steve Levy.
A new poll released today by Harstad Strategic Research found that the vast majority (eight out of 10) Long Islanders “somewhat” or “strongly” favor immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The survey spoke to 755 registered voters in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and was conducted between May 28 and June 2.
As Daniel Altshuler, of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table–an alliance of advocacy groups that were among organizations that commissioned the study—said:
Across all of Long Island, irrespective of demographics or congressional districts, there is just tremendous support for a fair and balanced approach to fixing the immigration system. [The poll shows immigration] is one of these infrequent marriages between good policy and good politics.
Not too long ago, Long Island and Suffolk County were known in the immigration world for former County Executive Steve Levy, one of the most anti-immigrant public officials in New York state. Duriing his tenure, immigrants in Suffolk County were routinely beaten, pelted with rocks, and spit at. High school students casually talked about “beaner jumping,” and attacks on immigrants were treated as a common pastime. Levy refused to discourage the rash of hate crimes—when Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death by seven high school students, Levy dismissed the murder as a “one-day story.”
In recent years, Long Island—thanks to the effort of groups like Make the Road New York and the Long Island Civic Engagement Table—has stepped away from this ugly history, voting in a new county executive rather than Levy’s heir apparent, and announcing an executive order granting equal access to non-English speakers. The poll released today is further evidence of a nationwide trend finding greater support for immigration reform than ever.
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) said the poll results may reflect a change of tone in the debate. “The passion associated with this issue has ebbed considerably,” he told Newsday.
Besides the “growing acceptance” of immigrants’ contributions, Bishop said, “people feel that this is a problem that has festered for far too long.”
This poll should also catch the attention of Rep. Peter King (R), who also represents part of Long Island. Last week, along with most other members of the GOP House caucus, King voted for Rep. Steve King’s amendment to deport DREAMers. Peter King would be wise to ditch the ugliness of that other Rep. King and side with his constituents by supporting real immigration reform.