NYCLU Hails Defeat of Suffolk County Anti-Immigrant Proposal

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
March 18, 2008 12:00 am

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The New York Civil Liberties Union today hailed the demise of an anti-immigrant proposal by Suffolk County lawmakers that would have required all 15,000 licensed contractors in the county to prove their employees’ working status.

“This is a victory for honest, hardworking people, this is a victory for fairness, and this is a victory for American values,” said Seth Muraskin, director of the Suffolk County chapter of the NYCLU. “This legislation would have been an open invitation for employers to discriminate against people who speak Spanish or otherwise appear ‘foreign.’ Our lawmakers did the right thing by allowing this obvious attempt at political pandering to die.”

The proposal, introduced in January by Brian Beedenbender, sought to rebuke Suffolk County contractors with penalties that included the loss of county licenses and up to four years in jail. The bill’s wide array of opponents – including union leaders, business owners and advocates – denounced it for promoting discrimination, and came to call it the “Electrician and Plumber Unemployment Act” because of the harmful impact it would have had on an already depressed economy.

“This proposal would have hurt individual contractors, potential consumers, workers and the Suffolk County economy,” said Ruth Mulford, vice president of the Metro/Long Island Association of Builders and Contractors, Empire State Chapter.

Jack Morrell, president of the Suffolk County Electrical Contractors’ Association, said the resolution wasn’t even necessary.

“The county already has agencies, investigators and a violation system in place to enforce health, safety and minimum wage laws,” Morrell said. “At a time when Suffolk County is already suffering from a $100 to $200 million budget deficit, neither taxpayers nor contractors could afford the legislation.”

The bill was tabled last week by the Suffolk County Consumer Protection Committee, and to get it out would have required the signatures of 10 legislators. Because only five put their names on it by Monday afternoon, the bill remains tabled and is unlikely to be approved on an up-or-down vote.

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