Former Congressman Tom Suozzi, who is hoping to recapture his seat in the House of Representatives, says he’s frustrated the federal government isn’t addressing the national immigration emergency. He’s calling upon President Biden, House Speaker Mike Johnson, and House Leader Hakeem Jeffries to find common ground to pass bipartisan legislation on the immigration crisis.
During a Zoom news conference on Tuesday, Suozzi revealed letters addressed to the president, speaker, and minority leader emphasizing the urgent need to “prioritize immigration issues” and presented proposals for a “comprehensive, moderate solution” to secure the border and address the suffering resulting from the government’s historical inaction on the matter.
“The national emergency is not on the border, but in the nation’s capital,” Suozzi told reporters. “It’s a failure of our leaders in Washington for over 30 years since we last had any comprehensive immigration reform in the country. “
Suozzi suggested what he calls an “Ellis Island solution.” He would like to see a large processing facility on the American side of the southern border where migrants could have medical exams, be processed, and have access to immigration judges who would hear their cases.
While a member of Congress, Suozzi visited the southern border three times in the summers of 2018 and 2019 and in April 2021. He witnessed firsthand what he referred to as “the desperate need for change.”
Under the plan, those migrants who have credible claims for asylum would be more effectively processed and there would be a protocol to quickly deny entry to those who do not qualify. A workable plan to deport those applicants denied entry would be implemented.
“It is just reaching epic proportions right now,” Suozzi told reporters. “What we really need to do is create this urgency that the federal government do its job and pass a comprehensive solution. I’m trying to raise the temperature on this issue.
Suozzi reiterated his 10-Point Plan, released on Dec. 19, 2023, which includes allocating more border security funding for additional personnel, technology implementation, and physical barriers. Highlighting the limitations of one-party or one-chamber bills, Suozzi urged collaboration to find common ground. He referenced a previous proposal, crafted with former Republican Congressman Peter King in 2019, which featured measures such as enhanced radar technology, improved ports of entry, physical barriers, increased immigration judges, and additional border patrol agents.
Joining the press conference, Nassau County Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, expressed her disappointment in Suozzi’s opponent, Mazi Melesa Pilip, in the Feb. 13 special election to replace George Santos. DeRiggi-Whitton criticized Pilip’s lack of engagement on critical issues, noting her refusal to debate and her limited participation in Legislature discussions.
“I’ve tried reaching out to her, tried to engage her in conversation, and she’s never tried to even speak with me,” DeRiggi-Whitton revealed. “That’s not the kind of congressperson this district needs.”
DeRiggi-Whitton highlighted Pilip’s recent vote against a budget amendment in late October to bolster the Nassau County Police Department, aligning with every other Republican. She emphasized that Pilip missed an opportunity to stand up for the people of Nassau and demonstrate independence from party lines.
“We have lost a year of representation in Congress with George Santos. We can’t afford to lose any more time,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “We need someone in Congress like Tom Suozzi, who knows exactly how things work.”
Pilip’s voting record highlights a stark contrast between the candidates. The decision to vote against additional police officers raises concerns for Suozzi and DeRiggi-Whitton about Pilip’s priorities and her commitment to addressing the needs and concerns of the local community.
After the conference, DeRiggi-Whitton told the Herald in a phone interview she was also worried about security at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove.
Newsday recently reported that based on Legislature transcripts for a two-year period Pilip spoke infrequently. At several meetings the only words she said were “here” during roll call attendance and “aye” during vote tallies.
Pilip did not responded to repeated attempts by the Herald to contact her by press time.