Border Deal Emerges as Flashpoint in New York Special Election for George Santos’s Seat

A week out from the special election at New York’s Third congressional district, candidates are sparring over their support — or opposition — to the Senate’s proposed border deal.

AP Photos
Congressional candidates Mazi Pilip, left, and Tom Suozzi. AP Photos

The bipartisan Senate border deal, which was unveiled Sunday night, is emerging as a flashpoint in the special election at New York’s Third Congressional district between Congressman Tom Suozzi and a county legislator, Mazi Pilip.

The situation at the southern border has been elevated as a key issue in the special election on February 13. Just a week out from the election, a bipartisan bill negotiated in the Senate has drawn opposition from Ms. Pilip and support from Mr. Suozzi.

In a statement Monday, Ms. Pilip attacked Mr. Suozzi for supporting the deal, saying it “basically legalizes the invasion of our country at the southern border, and allows in at least 1.5 million additional migrants to enter the nation each year.”

“If ‘Sanctuary Tom Suozzi’ returns to Washington, he will continue to support Joe Biden’s agenda of open borders and sanctuary cities,” Ms. Pilip said.

At a press conference Monday, Mr. Suozzi criticized Ms. Pilip’s opposition to the deal, telling the Sun that “my opponent is doing the bidding of Mike Johnson and Tom Emmer and Republican extremists in her party,” suggesting that they were opposing the bill simply because President Trump told them to.

“What would you do instead?” Mr. Suozzi says. “This is the product of four months of negotiations in the United States Senate.”

Despite the fact that border security measures were initially a concession granted to Republicans by Democrats in order to secure aid to Ukraine and Israel, Republicans have since soured on the deal.

Speaker Johnson declared the bill “DEAD on arrival in the House” in a post on X Monday afternoon, instead proposing action on the Republicans’ Secure Border Act.

Mr. Trump has also been rallying Republicans against the bill, saying in a post on Truth Social: “We need a separate Border and Immigration Bill. It should not be tied to foreign aid in any way, shape, or form.”

President Biden, in contrast, said he supports the bill, calling it “the toughest and fairest” border reform in years and saying it “would give me, as president, new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed.”

In the race to represent New York’s Third, Mr. Suozzi has criticized Republicans for their opposition to the deal, pointing to recent comments by the GOP negotiator on the deal, Senator Lankford, on Fox News.

“The key aspect of this, again, is are we, as Republicans, going to have press conferences and complain the border’s bad and then intentionally leave it open after the worst month in American history in December?” Mr. Lankford said.

The bill itself would couple funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Palestinians with new border security measures, including a provision that would allow the president to temporarily close the border to migrants attempting to enter the country if the number of encounters reaches an average of 4,000 a day in a week.

If the number of encounters at the border reached 5,000 a day averaged over a week or 8,500 encounters in a single day, the border would automatically be closed.

The bill would also make it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum in America by raising the bar for what constitutes a “credible fear” of persecution if migrants were to return to their countries of origin. 

Migrants who are able to demonstrate a credible fear are allowed into America and can live and work here while their cases are processed, which can take years.

Ms. Pilip’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Sun.


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