U.S. service members raise their right hands during a Naturalization Ceremony at Camp Pendleton in 2009.

Long Island’s proponents of the immigration reform bill being debated in the U.S. Senate hailed Wednesday the results of a new poll showing that 80 percent of LI voters support the legislation.

Immigration advocates, union leaders, farmers and a Congressional lawmaker voiced their support for the bill at a news conference following the release of the new poll conducted by Harstad Research, a national public opinion research firm.

“The era of attacking immigrants for political gain is long over,” declared Maryann Slutsky, executive director for Long Island Wins, an organization that campaigns for immigrant solutions. She suggested the poll is a wake-up call to LI’s lawmakers.

The poll sampled 755 registered LI voters within a broad range of age, gender and political affiliation, according to Harstad Research. Sixty percent of those polled feel that most immigrants intend to work hard and provide for their families, while 31 percent believe that immigrants come to the US to take advantage of the system.

The bill would create a path for citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, initiate stronger border enforcement and encourage business to import both high skilled and low skilled immigrant workers.

Nationwide, 68 percent of voters said that the government should provide illegal immigrants with a way to earn citizenship, according to a poll conducted in April by Belden Russonello Strategists, a Washington, D.C.-based research group.

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Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) touted the bill’s potential to improve the nation’s economic standing, national security and worker’s rights, referring to it as a “reasonable and enforceable means of trying to improve the system.” He added that he’s pleased with his constituents’ support for immigration reform.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the lone Republican among LI’s Congressional delegation, recently expressed support for the bill—as long as it includes more border security—at a Brentwood town hall meeting organized by the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, the same group that called the news conference.

Shirley Abdebol, vice president of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, stressed that the current policy “will continue to drive down wages for all workers.” Abdebol views the proposed reform as a way to inject more money into the economy through “building worker power” and encouraging entrepreneurialism.

The Long Island Farm Bureau, which has grappled with the issue of migrant workers for decades, also expressed support for the legislation.

Among the points of contention in the current debate is whether to include provisions such as citizenship for partners in same-sex couples. Of those polled, 71 percent of voters favored the provision while 22 percent were opposed.

While addressing that issue, Bishop cautioned that voters should “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Among the opponents to the bill are Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who referred to the bill as “flawed legislation” and a “monstrosity” on the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday.

“You bring in more labor, the price of labor falls,” Sessions said, arguing that a sudden surge of legal workers will suppress wages and limit job availability.

The bill is expected to be debated over the next few weeks, with backers hoping it will be passed by July 4.


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Timothy Bolger is the Managing Editor for the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.