Debate on Immigration: Helping Democrats or GOP?

Sign at an immigration reform rally - Photo: Arasmus Photo

Sign at an immigration reform rally. (Photo: Arasmus Photo)

The swirling political debate around undocumented immigrants compounded with the lack of tangible progress on immigration reform is surely going to have an effect on the midterm elections–the question is what that effect will be.

Some say there will be a “protest vote” by Hispanics against the Republican party, which championed Arizona’s law, SB 1070, that was meant to target undocumented immigrants. Yet others say Hispanics are so disillusioned by broken promises over immigration reform from the Democratic party that they will stay home on election day. That’s the hunch of the Pew Hispanic Center, which released a poll saying as much this week. Then there’s the question of how the issue of immigration will affect non-immigrants at the polls.

The five boroughs of New York are full of immigrants, and most local politicians have only warm words for them, including the mayor. But as more immigrants move outside of the city to the metropolitan area–Westchester, Long Island, Connecticut–for cheaper rents and economic opportunities, tension is growing as small towns struggle to incorporate these new communities with different needs.

Radio host Brian Lehrer, on our partner WNYC, facilitated a conversation on Monday about legal and illegal immigration in Long Island, and how it might effect the midterm election results in that area. Randy Altschuler, Republican and Conservative Party nominee for Congress from New York’s 1st District on Long Island and Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition were the guests.

Altschuler took pains to establish himself as pro-immigrant, but against illegal immigration, saying the country needed to enforce existing laws and stem the flow of illegal migrants over borders he described as “porous.” The congressional candidate says he opposes amnesty for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States and opposes most suggestions for comprehensive immigration reform. “There needs to be a process and there needs to be a penalty for people here illegally,” he said.

Altschuler rejected the premise of the Brian Lehrer Show Question of the Day – True/False: The United States Has Too Many Immigrants.

“People aren’t upset about immigrants coming to this country. And irregardless we have a proud, Dominican, Mexican, lots of different communities here. That’s not the issue. The issue is folks coming here illegally. There is not a right number of illegal immigrants. In all cases we don’t support illegal immigration. We want legal immigrants…There is no such thing as too many immigrants. This is a country of immigrants. The question is illegal immigration. That’s what we oppose. Not immigration. Of course not.”

Read more at WNYC’s politics site, It’s a Free Country.

Listen to the conversation:

Feet in Two Worlds New York election coverage is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

AboutSarah Kate Kramer
Sarah Kate Kramer first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator, then traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown of New York City. From 2010-2012 she was the editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio, where she created “Niche Market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York. Sarah is now a producer at Radio Diaries, a non-profit that produces documentaries for NPR and other public radio outlets.