Tom Suozzi talks New York’s ‘sanctuary city’ fight and Biden’s re-election

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On Feb. 13, Tom Suozzi dramatically won back his old seat in Congress, replacing George Santos and reversing years of local Democratic decline. Afterward, he laid low. Suozzi didn’t want to step on his maiden speech to the House, which he delivered on Wednesday, warning colleagues that they were being “bullied by our base.” The next morning, Suozzi talked with reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the centrist Democratic policy group Third Way. Semafor reporters asked about two issues, and Suozzi’s answers are below.


Americana: During your race, one big flashpoint was the image of migrants who scuffled with a police officer. Mayor Adams has said he wants to revisit the city’s sanctuary policy, so that migrants suspected of committing crime get turned over to immigration officials. Do you support that?

Tom Suozzi: Yes. And that was a big thing in my campaign. They took a clip of me where I said, “I kicked ICE out of Nassau County.” What happened was, in 2007, ICE came to Nassau County

with 96 warrants. Of the 96 warrants, 90 were for the wrong addresses. So, pre-dawn raids, knocking down people’s doors, heavy armaments, some guys wearing cowboy hats, terrorizing people. They didn’t coordinate with our cops. They actually pulled their guns on two of our police officers. And my police commissioner came to me and said, look, I can’t work with these guys. They’re a bunch of cowboys.

I’m forever a pro-law enforcement person, but we were not going to work with a bunch of people who didn’t follow the rules. Local police cannot do the job of federal officials. If everybody’s afraid that the cops are going to ask you for your ID, then you won’t go to the cops. If you’re a guy walking around with too much cash in your pocket, and you got robbed, and you’re afraid to go to the cops to report the crime, how do you get protection? That’s where gangs come from. But can we cooperate, especially in the case of violent crime? Yeah, definitely.

Americana: By revisiting sanctuary city status in New York?

Tom Suozzi: I don’t think most people know what sanctuary city means. I think it’s a very misused term. I think what the mayor is doing right now is the right thing.

Americana: President Biden is going to be giving his State of the Union. He’s talked a lot in his reelection campaign about finishing the job. What does that look like to you? What’s the kind of case the Democrats should be making?

Tom Suozzi: There’s some of the immediate urgent questions, like the border, Israel, Ukraine. Then, the President should be making his case that he’s changed a lot of policy in America, related to infrastructure. That’s massive. I’ve been in politics for 30 years. We’ve always talked about the need for an infrastructure bill in America. We’ve never really got something of this magnitude before. This will have an enormous impact on the quality of life. The CHIPS Act is a major change in American industrial policy. We can’t rely upon our strategic adversaries to hold us hostage. We must do this ourselves. It’s caused a boom in manufacturing, and it will continue to.

So, both of these things together, are reducing the unemployment rate, increasing wages, revving up the economy. I’m 61 years old. In the 1970s and 80s, we were worried that Japan and Germany were going to take over our economy. Everybody blamed the unions. Milton Friedman said, just worry about the shareholders, that’s all that matters. And we did that. We changed the whole policy of America. We made a tremendous amount of money in America, in the process. The Dow Jones went up 2000%, but workers’ wages have gone up less than 20%.

We ended up with all these towns that were hollowed out, all these people with no jobs. People are angry. They’re looking for a savior in Donald Trump, who’s really not going to deliver it. And Joe Biden has been pushing the importance of the labor movement to rebuild the middle class. My party’s problem has been that they’ve let the Republicans talk to these folks about their anger related to social issues, without talking about enough about the fact that we want to make sure you have better wages and benefits so you can live a decent life.

I got endorsed by the building trade unions, okay? These are carpenters, electricians, laborers, plumbers, steamfitters, etc, etc. And they worked for me and my campaign. They worked on my behalf because I was talking to them about what they cared about. And on the social-type issues: I was also pro-law enforcement, and I was pro-fixing the chaos at the border. So, when Joe Biden talks about finishing the job, the job is rebuilding the middle class in America, so that the American dream is real.