3.23.2007

Standing While Latino: Video of the Suffolk County Anti-Loitering Debate

In Suffolk Legislature Votes Down Anti-Immigrant Code (3.21.07), I posted that the Suffolk County Legislature defeated a controversial anti-loitering bill aimed at immigrant day laborers who congregate along county roads to solicit work from passing motorists.

The bill, dubbed "The Standing While Latino" code by Latino and immigrant advocacy groups, sparked strong opposition from the county's large Latino and immigrant populations.

The lead up to the defeat of the bill included two days of hearings by the legislature's public safety committee. The hearings took place on 3.15.07 and 3.16.07 and they were videotaped by Ian and Kimberly Wilder, artists from the Town of Babylon, Suffolk County. They've posted the videos on their weblog On The Wilder Side.

Standing While Latino: Part 1 features the eloquent commentaries of legislators Elie Mystal (D)and Kate Browning (WFP*) in opposition. Both legislators are immigrants: Mystal from Haiti and Browning from Northern Ireland. Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D)is also shown speaking against the bill because of concerns that it could be used against congregating union workers.

Standing While Latino: Part 2 features the testimony of Dr. Luis Valenzuela, Executive Director of the Long Island Immigration Alliance and Professor of Social Work at the Adelphi University on Long Island.

What's fascinating to watch is the exchange between the sponsors of the bill, Jack Eddington (WFP*) and Joseph Caracappa (R), and Dr. Valenzuela. Dr. Valenzuela challenges the legislature to find a nondivisive solution to the problems, but the legislators defend acting on behalf of property owners while also expressing resentment at opponents' use of the word racist.

*Working Families Party