The New York Civil Liberties Union will express strong opposition today to proposed anti-immigrant legislation that is under consideration before the Suffolk County Legislature. The NYCLU will testify that the law would foster rampant discrimination and would violate the constitutional principle that local government cannot override federal law.
"The Legislature is proposing to create law based on prejudice and hostility toward immigrants, not sound policy," said NYCLU Legislative Counsel Udi Ofer, who will present today's testimony. "Suffolk does not have the power to make its own immigration laws. And the proposed legislation would lead employers to discriminate against anyone who they perceived as foreign, regardless of that person's actual citizenship status."
Under the federal system of government, the national government maintains the sole authority to regulate immigration. In the interest of uniformity and to avoid creating a patchwork of rules that would be unfair and inefficient, the constitution prohibits local government entities from enacting laws that impose different requirements and sanctions from those imposed by the federal government.
"The legislature should recognize that the proposed legislation is outside of its authority, and it should vote accordingly," said Dolores Bilges, Director of the Suffolk County Chapter of the NYCLU.
Suffolk's proposed law conflicts with existing federal law that sets carefully considered standards as to who is an immigrant and how workers can prove that they are authorized to work in the United States. If the proposed legislation passed, for instance, military personnel, who under federal law may use a U.S. Military Card to establish their identity, would not be allowed to do so in Suffolk County. And Native Americans would no longer be informed of their authority to use tribal documents in order to establish employment eligibility.
"Introductory Resolution 2025 tries to intervene in an impassioned national debate over the reform of federal immigration law," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. "Suffolk residents should make their feelings known through public expression and by lobbying their elected officials in Congress. But their legislature has no right to try to resolve the debate itself by implementing its own unauthorized and discriminatory law."
Ofer will testify today at the Suffolk County Legislature's General Meeting, which will take place at 4:00 today in the Rose Carracapa Auditorium of the Williams H. Rogers Building at 725 Veterans Memorial Highway in Smithtown, NY.