Mazi Melesa Pilip, left, the Republican candidate in the 3rd Congressional...

Mazi Melesa Pilip, left, the Republican candidate in the 3rd Congressional District special election, is competing for the seat against Democrat Tom Suozzi. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Republican candidate Mazi Melesa Pilip and Democrat Tom Suozzi, who are facing off in the Feb. 13 special election in the 3rd Congressional District, held dueling news conferences in Queens Thursday about federal immigration policy.

In her first news conference since announcing her candidacy last month, Pilip stood across the street from the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village, where nearly 1,000 migrants are living temporarily, and vowed to work to secure the southern border if elected. 

Pilip, a Nassau County legislator and an Ethiopian-born Israeli American, is competing with Suozzi to fill the seat of expelled former GOP Rep. George Santos. 

Pilip said neighbors of the temporary shelter at Creedmoor have “reported incidents of intimidating encounters with migrants who have demanded money and harassed children and engaged in public drinking and drug use.”

The state property sits on the edge of the 3rd District, which cover's Nassau's North Shore, South Shore communities such as Massapequa and portions of Northern Queens.

“The cost of the migrant crisis can be measured in dollars and cents, violence and criminal activities, as well as the destruction of our local quality of life,” Pilip said to a small group of reporters.

Pilip campaign spokesman Brian Devine did not respond to a reporter's request for copies of police reports to support Pilip's assertions, saying Pilip had heard from residents about crime and other issues while on the campaign trail.

Suozzi, who served three terms representing the 3rd District, held his own press availability at the Creedmoor site shortly after Pilip's event concluded Thursday morning. 

Minutes after Pilip walked down the block with Nassau GOP officials and supporters, Suozzi drove up from the opposite direction and greeted reporters and camera crews who had yet to take down their tripods and microphones. 

Suozzi said it was important “to just come here and rebut some of the things she brought up, directly, and talk about this immigration crisis that is affecting so many families in this area and throughout the United States of America.” 

Suozzi said Pilip was mimicking immigration talking points of national and local Republican Party “bosses” and oversimplifying a complicated issue.

The back-to-back events along Hillside Avenue come as New York City tries to cope with an influx of more than 170,000 asylum-seeking migrants from central and South America. 

Pilip sidestepped a question about whether she sided with former President Donald Trump, who last week called on Republican lawmakers to reject a proposed deal to provide aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan along with billions of dollars in funding to boost enforcement at the southern border.

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park), who accompanied Pilip at the news conference, answered the question first, criticizing President Biden and other Democrats for inaction on the migrant crisis.

After about two minutes, the reporter asked “Can we hear from Mazi now?”

“Yes let me just finish my point,” D'Esposito said.

Pilip echoed D'Esposito saying, “over 200 days ago, we [Republicans] submitted a plan on how to protect our borders and nobody did anything about it. We have to secure our borders that's our priority right now … we have to see what the deal is first.”

Suozzi called the House Republicans' legislation, H.R. 2, “draconian," for including measures such as not allowing humanitarian parole for immigrants from Ukraine and Afghanistan on an emergency basis.

That bill “goes way too far that you will never get a single Democratic vote for. It's a my-way-or-the-highway bill. And the Democrats who say 'my way or the highway' are wrong too. The key to solving problems is compromise. You gotta get both sides to cut a deal.”

The bill also called for reinstatement of Trump-era policies such as construction of a wall along the southern border.

Devine cut off a reporter's questions about other topics such as discrepancies between financial disclosure forms Pilip filed as a county legislator and as a congressional candidate.

Newsday reported this week that Pilip listed assets on her county financial disclosure that were not included in her filings as a federal candidate. In the Nassau disclosure, for instance, Pilip said her husband, a physician, was an owner or partner in three businesses besides his main medical companies listed on the federal disclosure forms.

Devine said in a statement the businesses “have not taken off and have no value. As such, it is not appropriate for these entities to be reported in [the federal] disclosure.”

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