(Levittown, New York) The world’s first suburban city, Levittown continues to present the image of a certain American dream with its small houses lined up along quiet streets and surrounded by white picket fences.
But, according to Denise Beery, this American dream, manufactured on Long Island by the Levitt company after World War II, is now threatened by illegal immigration. The retired teacher is referring to all these migrants who claim asylum in the United States after entering illegally, whether via the southern or northern border.
“We are sandwiched between Canada and Mexico,” she confides after having participated in advance in a vote with possible national impact at the town hall of Levittown, about 50 km east of New York, where more than 150,000 migrants have arrived since last summer.
“Every state, every county, every city has become a border zone,” she adds.
His vote will count in a special election Tuesday in a district that includes parts of Long Island and the New York borough of Queens. The purpose of the vote is to fill the seat left vacant in the House of Representatives by George Santos, this Republican confabulator who resigned after being severely criticized by the House Ethics Committee for behavior that had already earned him be indicted by American justice.
A “national barometer”
The importance of this election lies not only in its impact on the Republican majority in the House, which is already tenuous in the extreme. The verdict of the voters of the 3e New York State’s precinct could also presage that of next November, according to Larry Levy, dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University on Long Island.
“The term may be overused, but I think it’s fair to say that it is a national barometer,” says this seasoned observer.
The February 13 election is really about November 5 and how a few suburban voting districts can determine who will control (the majority) in the House of Representatives.
Larry Levy, dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, Long Island
“Across the country, strategists, candidates and donors from both parties are watching this election to learn what strategies, tactics and messages are and are not working,” the dean continued.
Judging by the comments of all the Republicans met by The Press in Levittown, the migrant crisis will be a decisive issue. An issue which also risks weighing on the outcome of the presidential election, Donald Trump constantly denouncing the way in which Joe Biden manages the border between the United States and Mexico, where more than 6 million entries illegal have been recorded since 2021.
“Migrants are breaking our laws,” says Chris, an army veteran who prefers to withhold his last name, after voting in advance. “They come here saying, ‘Feed me. ” It’s not correct. My parents and everyone I know arrived the right way. Immigration is a good thing for our country. But you have to do it the right way. »
Perception versus reality
The irony is that Nassau County, which includes Levittown, and neighboring Suffolk County do not receive any migrants. But Republican voters on Long Island, as well as some Democrats and independents, are influenced by how the media and social media portray the migrant crisis unfolding in New York.
And they were outraged recently when they saw the viral photo of Jhoan Boada, a young 22-year-old Venezuelan migrant, brandishing two middle fingers after his release without bail by Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg. Boada was part of a group of migrants arrested for kicking two police officers in Times Square, an attack filmed by a surveillance camera.
“The video and the prosecutor reinforce suburban residents’ concerns about what they see as the city’s chaos that could descend on their neighborhoods,” said Larry Levy of Hofstra University. “It’s unlikely, but in politics, perception can be much more powerful than reality. »
Other issues will weigh on the voters’ verdict, including access to abortion, gun control and the war between Israel and Hamas. The Republican candidate, Mazi Melesa Pilip, is a 44-year-old Israeli immigrant, born in Ethiopia, who served in the Israeli army. His Democratic opponent, Tom Suozzi, previously represented the district in Congress before running unsuccessfully for governor of New York State.
The Democratic counterattack
In recent days, Mr. Suozzi has tried to counter his opponent’s attacks on illegal immigration by linking it to the refusal of congressional Republicans to accept a bipartisan bill intended to secure the southern border.
“Unfortunately, my opponent has aligned himself with extremism,” he said at the start of the only debate between the two candidates last Thursday. “She says she’s concerned about the border, but she opposes the bipartisan solution that would close the border. »
John Shannon, a Levittown businessman, cited the same Republican blockage to justify his support for the Democratic candidate.
The Republicans do not want to resolve the crisis at the southern border. They want it to continue to give a bad image of Joe Biden. Anyway, what could they talk about if they didn’t have this issue?
John Shannon, Democratic voter
The most recent polls give the Democratic candidate a slight lead. But Long Island Republicans are counting on a well-oiled machine to get their vote out. A Democratic defeat would interrupt a nearly unbroken string of special election successes.
It would add to the recent misfortunes of Joe Biden, who beat Donald Trump by 8 percentage points in the 3e New York constituency in 2020. However, if many local Republicans continue to have reservations about the former president, this is nothing compared to what they think today of the current president.
“A friend of mine is a lifelong Democrat,” says Rob Schimenz, who taught at a Queens high school for years. “I said to him: ‘How can you still support Biden? » This guy has dementia. And he told me he didn’t have dementia. And I said, ‘Well, there are two of you then. Because if you don’t think so, you’re crazy. » »