Archives of the Mayor's Press Office

Date: June 10, 1997

Release #335-97

Contact: Colleen Roche or Dwight Williams (212) 788-2958


Officials from Across the Nation Reconvene on Ellis Island for Day Two of the New York City Immigration Conference

(Ellis Island) Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani led Mayors and County Executives from across the nation in signing a Statement of Principles which calls upon Congress to restore federal benefits to many elderly and disabled legal immigrants adversely affected by recent welfare and immigration reform laws. The signing ceremony on Ellis Island -- gateway to America for generations of immigrants -- took place on the final day of the New York City Immigration Conference convened by Mayor Giuliani to bring together members of a coalition of concerned government officials and community groups in a united effort to demand protection for legal immigrants.

"Interwoven with the history of New York City is the history of immigration. The City widely viewed as the Capital of the World has been enriched in countless ways by immigration," said Mayor Giuliani. "Immigrants -- whether they came here seeking freedom, or their fortunes -- continue to enrich our American way of life.

"It doesn't matter whether your family came over on the Mayflower, poured in through Ellis Island or landed at Kennedy Airport, as Americans we instinctively recognize the inspiration and commitment it takes to aim for a better life in a new country. As immigrants, and as Americans, we each have a stake in the debate about how we treat non-citizens, and an interest in preserving the character of our nation."

The Mayor concluded, "Last year, Congress enacted the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-208). Many of the provisions in these new laws treat legal immigrants unfairly and are not related to real immigration reform at all. It is precisely because of this inequity that I join together with the leaders of cities and counties from across the nation and call upon Congress for immediate restoration of benefits to legal immigrants. Anything less than this would be cruel and contrary to the principles upon which this great nation was founded." Signing the resolution, along with Mayor Giuliani, were:


America benefits immensely from the economic, cultural, and social contributions of immigrants. Immigrants fuel our economy by investing in businesses and in neighborhoods. America's cultural and intellectual life is energized by the special gifts and talents that immigrants bring to our nation.

The new laws recently passed by Congress and signed into law by the President unfairly target immigrants in the United States by severely limiting their access to many federal benefits which citizens are entitled to receive. The benefit restrictions will have a devastating effect on individuals, families, and communities across America.

Since legal immigrants work and pay taxes like American citizens, they should be entitled to temporary assistance when they fall into personal difficulty. Furthermore, the denial of federal assistance to legal immigrants in need is patently unfair and arguably unconstitutional and inhumane.

The new laws represent a massive cost shift from the federal government to many cities and states. Those legal immigrants who previously relied on the federal government for assistance in times of need will now be abandoned under the new laws. It will now be left to states and localities to provide care if legal immigrants should fall upon hard times or become disabled. A glaring inequity is that 75 percent of the savings from these laws will be shouldered by only four states -- California, Florida, New York, and Texas.

The current backlog of citizenship applications that is plaguing many gateway cities across America and preventing qualified immigrants from becoming citizens must be reduced by targeting more resources and assistance to needed areas.

The President and Congress must revise those sections of the new welfare and immigration laws that are discriminatory and impose punitive benefit restrictions on immigrants. These restrictions threaten to undermine the health and safety of immigrants and the local communities in which they live.


The Conference participants insist that benefits be restored to immigrants and recommend the following Congressional action:

Restore eligibility to legal immigrants for all means-tested federal benefits, including Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant, Medicaid, and Social Services Block Grant, to the extent that these benefits are available to citizens;

Enable immigrants to continue receiving essential public health services, including preventive and primary health care, pre-natal and child health care, and screening and treatment for serious conditions;

Ensure that legal immigrants remain eligible for public and assisted housing;

Appropriate targeted funding for the INS to expedite the naturalization process;

Delete federal requirements which restrict localities from prohibiting their employees from providing information to the INS on the immigration status of aliens seeking basic services, and thereby undermining the reasonable efforts of many cities to protect public health and safety.

The first day of the Conference, held yesterday at the Sheraton New York Hotel, featured plenary sessions and workshops dealing with: naturalization initiatives, the contribution of immigrants, lawsuits and emerging legal issues, the immigrant advocacy community and the demographic impact of immigrants.

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