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Immigrants Suing To Halt Vote on Suffolk Contractor Law

April 28, 2008

Hauppauge, NY - The Suffolk Legislature could face a lawsuit over its vote on a bill that would require contractors to investigate workers' immigration status or lose their licenses. The suit is an attempt to halt this week's scheduled vote on lawmaker Brian Beedenbender's controversial bill, in favor of a compromise due the following week.

Domenico Romero, project director for the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, believes the Beedenbender bill was improperly moved out of committee during a last-minute re-vote, while an opposing member was out of town on an emergency.

"The committee had already tabled this bill. But now that this legislator was out of town, the vote made it out of committee. This goes against the procedures of the legislature. So, actually, we are looking into filing a lawsuit, probably on Monday, about these procedures."

Beedenbender says his proposal would expand a two-year-old law that put similar immigrant restrictions on contractors doing business with Suffolk County.

"We did that piece of legislation in 2006, predating my existence at the legislature, and I believe this is the next logical step, to say all those people, 'All the individuals and businesses that receive occupational licenses will have to follow the rules.'"

Opponents say Beedenbender's bill duplicates existing federal law, and that its passage could mean discrimination against Latinos and other immigrant workers in the Island's substantial contract construction industry. Romero says the Alliance, as well as other labor and commercial leaders, favor a compromise presented by Jon Cooper. It would maintain payroll taxes and minimum wage payments, but eliminate the requirement of investigating workers' immigration status. In Romero's view, it's a proposal that would protect all workers, regardless of their immigration status.

"We are supporting a proposal that strips this law of the anti-immigrant content, and keeps the part that will actually protect all workers' rights. Some laws are just going to create discrimination, but there are other laws that can protect all workers."

Cooper's compromise comes up for a vote on May 13; a vote on Beedenbender's bill is scheduled for Tuesday.

Robert Knight/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY