September 27, 2006

Zanzi v Bishop on Immigration

The campaign for the seat in the first Congressional district ratcheted up this week as contender Italo Zanzi held a series of press events criticizing incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop's stance on immigration.

The challenger contrasted what he called his " very aggressive and zero tolerance" philosophy to Bishop's support of a "soft and very dangerous" bill recently passed by the Senate.

According to Zanzi, the bill, which was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy and John McCain, gives amnesty and concurrent social benefits to illegal immigrants and also "Opens the door for exponentially more people to come in on the backs of those being naturalized." The amnesty is mitigated by "nominal penalties" the challenger contends are "a drop in the bucket relative to the costs for health care, education and all sorts of other services."

Speaking to The Independent on Friday, Bishop countered, pointing out that the bill is supported by a bi-partisan majority of lawmakers, as well as President Bush. Amnesty implies a magic wand of absolution. The bill calls for anything but magic, the congressman explained. "This takes a realistic approach to a very complex problem." The path to earned legal status could take 11 years for participants. They would be required to pay both back taxes and penalties, learn English, have jobs and of course, no criminal record. "Amnesty is 'all is forgiven' and that's not what the bill is," Bishop said.

Like most who call for zero tolerance, Zanzi was unable to provide exact data to back up the claim of significant financial burdens caused by illegal immigrants. He said that one "intuitively" knows there's a drain on health care and education, and that he has done "exhaustive research" in an effort to discern figures. It is "shameful" Bishop hasn't called for an analysis of the cost, Zanzi said.

Actually, the congressman has researched the issue, he said. Meeting with the Nassau Suffolk Hospital Council, Bishop learned that indeed un-reimbursed care is a significant problem. However, the financial burden is primarily driven by native-born Americans who don't have insurance. For the most part, immigrants stay away from hospitals for fear of deportation. "I would suggest a candidate for Congress form his opinion based on empirical data, not intuition," Bishop derided.

Speaking of deportation, Bishop rebuked Zanzi's stance on the notion as "nonsensical." The Republican believes every undocumented immigrant within arms reach of law enforcement should be "arrested, removed and deported quickly." The cost of a massive enforcement undertaking would be worth it, he said, in relation to overall savings.

Bishop supports the deportation of those who have committed serious crimes. The deportation of every undocumented worker is simply not a practical alternative, he said. "We could not evacuate New Orleans and those people wanted to go and we knew where they were," Bishop said. Trying to track down and remove the nation's estimated 12 million illegal aliens is "simply unrealistic."

Zanzi likened Bishop's stance to saying "We can't stop all crime, so let's stop no crime."

Zanzi also takes a tough position regarding what he calls "anchor babies," children born of undocumented immigrants who, by dint of being in born in the US achieve automatic citizenship. "That has to change," he said. "That's in the Constitution," Bishop reminded, "Anyone born on U.S. soil is an American citizen."

The pair concurs on the notion of improving enforcement along the Mexican border. Bishop endorsed a bill calling for the construction of a 700-mile fence. Zanzi recently toured an area south of San Diego and was "shocked and disturbed" to see how easy it is to walk between the two countries. Both also support a manifold increase to the number of troops at the border.

Overall, Zanzi said Bishop has had four years to demonstrate leadership on the issue. "But he has demonstrated an absolute lack of leadership," the GOP hopeful declared. Bishop reminded that Zanzi's party has held power in Washington for the last six years, and only now seems to have discovered immigration. "My opponent is running a single issue campaign on an issue for which his party has not a single accomplishment," the incumbent concluded.

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