As Seaford Republican Peter King prepared to address a group of mostly elderly Coast Guard veterans last week, he was ready to be peppered with questions regarding Social Security.
There were queries about the war in Iraq, veterans’ benefits and homeland security, but one of the most heated debates in Washington—what to do with the federally guaranteed pension program—wasn’t mentioned even once by the two dozen people at Tuesday’s meeting. Instead, concern over illegal immigration almost drowned out every other subject.
“We have a huge influx of immigrants. What about quotas?” asked Fred Jakob of Albertson.
Day laborers who congregate on street corners looking for work and overcrowded living conditions in homes meant for single families have stirred unrest in communities from East Hampton to Farmingville to Freeport to Glen Cove.
Increasingly, King said, he hears from constituents concerned about stemming illegal immigration. The subject comes up in forums at civic centers, chats with spectators at the West Islip Memorial Day parade and in the pews of his parish church, he said.
“Last Sunday this woman turns to me and says, ‘Glad to see you in church, congressman, but close our borders,’” said King, a six-term House member.
Likewise, Democrat Tim Bishop of Southampton attended town-hall meetings from Mastic to Kings Park to Selden, and discussions often developed about how immigration affects jobs, social services and the quality of the life in neighborhoods.