I'm pleased to be with you this morning to talk about New Americans and New Immigrants.
This is a good time and place to discuss these vital issues.
"The North Star State" is now celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Swedish immigration to Minnesota.
Unless, of course, "The Kensington Stone" is right... in which case this would be the 634th anniversary of Swedish immigration of Minnesota.
Today, Minnesota is once again feeling the effects of immigration, this time from Southeast Asia, Mexico and South America.
But legal immigration should not be a cause for concern... in Minnesota or anywhere else.
Our country was built by the hands of immigrants.
A hundred and fifty years ago much of Minnesota was wilderness.
Look around this campus and this great city today and we see what immigrants have achieved.
Look what Dr. Hasselmo himself has accomplished... not bad for an immigrant from Sweden.
Today, potential university presidents are still arriving in America.
Just as they did in years past, immigrants are continuing to revitalize and reinvigorate the culture and economy of our cities and states.
But the view of immigration I just presented to you is not necessarily the one most often expressed by a majority of the politicians in America today...
Although this view has been the prevailing opinion throughout the majority of American History, and the clear preference of all our great leaders.
History shows that America goes through periods where people become fearful of immigration.
But eventually we return to the recognition that new Americans are good for our country.
We eventually realize that any effort to eliminate, reduce or unfairly burden immigrants -- if pushed to the extreme -- could destroy the very process that is the key to American success.
America became the most successful nation in history because of our constant process of re-evaluation, reform and revitalization, a process that is driven by immigrants who come here to create better lives for themselves and their children. We are constantly being reinvented, not just by the free flow of ideas but by the free flow of people.
This process has really defined the United States. It makes us what we are.
Abraham Lincoln said that Americans are not bound together by race, religion, or titles of nobility, but by a strong belief in democracy and opportunity.
But sometimes our belief in those ideals weakens. America today is going through a period where it doubts that we need new people.
In periods like this, fear prevails over optimism. Self doubt prevails over confidence. Americans begin to think that our country is too crowded, or that there are not enough job opportunities.
When they see new people, they see problems.
I don't share that pessimism. When I see new people, I see new opportunities.
Much more often, I see people pursing the American Dream, people who are going to build and strengthen New York City, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities around that country.
If I could take you out to Kennedy Airport -- which in many ways is the Ellis Island of today -- you would see people coming to America from many different parts of the world.
In some ways they may look different and speak differently that the immigrants who came through Ellis Island...
But the look in their eyes is the same.
You can see in their eyes the same determination... you can see that they are looking for a chance to build new lives in a country that provides freedom and opportunity.
And they are exactly what America needs.
They help our country tremendously. They help us with the work they do... they challenge us with new ideas, and with new perspectives.
They remind us how lucky we are, and that America is something special This is still the country where more people want to come than anywhere else.
Basically, new immigrants to America are no different than the old immigrants to America.
And the anti-immigration movement now sweeping the country is no different than earlier anti-immigration movements that have surfaced periodically in American History.
We need only look back at the "Chinese Exclusionary Act..." or especially at the "know-nothing" movement that swept America in the mid-nineteenth century.
The "Know-nothings" encouraged Americans to fear foreigners and stop immigration.
But one of our greatest leaders had the courage to stand up and oppose the "know-nothings."
He was our first republican president, Abraham Lincoln.
In 1855, Lincoln lamented the state of a nation that began with the phrase "All Men are Created Equal." "When the know-nothings get control," Lincoln wrote, "It will read: all men are created equal, except Negroes, and Foreigners and Catholics."
"If the know-nothings come to power," continued Lincoln, "I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."
Abraham Lincoln was not solely a romantic about the value of immigration and neither am I.
The fact is, immigration makes economic sense.
Immigrants work hard, in New York City, foreign-born males are 10 percent more likely to be employed that native-born males...
Foreign-born women are employed at the same rate as native-born women.
In New York City, immigrants own businesses is higher percentages that other Americans.
And immigrants in New York City are 10 percent less likely that native-born Americans to be on Public Assistance.
Immigrants do their best. Nationwide, immigrants account for 50 percent of all Professors of Engineering.
And immigrants account for 21 percent of all US Physicians.
So if you take away or severely restrict immigration, you will take away American jobs and productivity.
Because immigrants are net contributors to our economy. They are creators of wealth. They pay their own way.
I said earlier that I'd like to take you to J.F.K. Airport and show you new Americans arriving.
And while we were out there in Queens, I would also take you to a community called Flushing, and show you how new Americans are contributing to our country.
Flushing is a community I have known all my life.
When I visited there is 1989, I was saddened to see that stores were closed, and businesses were fleeing the neighborhood.
Flushing was a community in serious economic distress.
Today it's a very different story. Stores are occupied. The streets are crowded, teeming with activity.
There are new restaurants, new businesses, new manufacturing, even a new hotel. This economic renaissance did not come from Government subsidies. It came from the hard work of people striving to build better lives.
And those people happen to be immigrants... new Americans.
Most are from Asia... from Korea, Vietnam, India and China.
Many don't speak English, which may give the impression that their children would be a burden to our school system.
But the fact is, their children often out-perform native-born students...
and we can see this same success story repeated throughout New York City. Brighten Beach is the home of a thriving Russian-American Community.
West Indian Immigration has helped to rebuild neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
In Jackson Heights, Latin Americans, South Americans and Caribbeans have created a dynamic community.
And strong immigration from Ireland is revitalizing whole areas of the Bronx and their success becomes our success.
Of course, there can also be problems attached to immigration. New Americans have problems, just like the rest of us.
But the big question is, does immigration add to our country more that it detracts?
Just look at New York City. Currently, more that 28 percent of New York's population is foreign born.
And New York is the richest and most successful city in the country.
Despite all the stereo-typing, New York is a city that strengthens our Nation's economy.
In fact, each year New York City sends to Washington, D.C. $9 billion more than it receives in return.
New York City's contribution to the National economy in effect subsidizes states like Georgia and Arkansas, which each receive about $1 billion a year more that they sent to Washington.
Much of the money that New York City contributes to other states was created by immigrants, and by the children of immigrants.
Indeed, the whole process of immigration is something the Republican Party should embrace.
Immigration was a core belief of a founder of the Republican party, Abraham Lincoln....
Competition is the heart of the Republican philosophy...and immigration clearly helps New York City compete.
So there is really no reason for the punitive anti-immigration legislation that we are now seeing in Washington.
Look what congress and the President have done with the new welfare law.
Legal immigrants are allowed in by the Federal Government, invited here at the rate of about 400,000 a year.
When they arrive, they are taxed on exactly the same basis as American citizens.
And given the higher rates at which they work and own businesses in New York City, they bring a lot of revenue to the Federal Government.
And yet, after having been invited here, and taxed like all other Americans, if they get in trouble the Federal Government washes its hands of the problem.
All of a sudden, immigrants become the responsibility of our States and Cities.
In my view this is not only unfair and unwise, it may be unconstitutional.
As Lincoln said, immigrants come here because they share our ideals. Is it right that we take their money as if they were citizens, but then discriminate against them if they need help?
I believe this is a violation of their fifth amendment rights. It violates due process. It is invidious discrimination.
The courts will eventually decide this issue, but Congress and the President should not leave it to the courts.
They should act now, before any more damage is done to the soul of America.
There has been a lot of anger, confusion and distortion about immigration. But most Americans, with their basic sense of fairness, will be able to see the unfair and possibly unconstitutional way that immigrants are being treated by the welfare and anti-immigration bills.
Illegal immigration is a different matter. I do not defend it. No one should break the law.
But preventing illegal immigration is the job of the Federal Government.
The United States has to do a lot better job of patrolling our borders.
If we can't stop illegal immigration, then we can't stop drugs and weapons from entering the country, either.
But in a country as large as ours, with our protection of individual liberty, and with a huge border that spans sea, deserts and mountains... and given the strong desire that people have to come to this country, the Federal Government may never be able to stop illegal immigration completely.
At best, all we can expect is that the Federal Government will do a better job of patrolling our borders.
The reality is, people will always get in. And the reality is, the Federal Government doesn't deport them.
In New York City, which has 400,000 undocumented immigrants, only about 1,500 a year are deported.
Under the new legislation, that number would -- at most -- double to about 3,000 out of 400,000.
So illegal and undocumented immigrants are going to remain, and even increase.
And nothing that is now being proposed in Washington would realistically change that very much.
In New York City, we recognize this reality. New York City's policy toward undocumented immigrants is called "Executive Order 124."
This order was issued seven years by Mayor Ed Koch and reissued by my predecessor, Mayor Dinkins, and by me.
"Executive Order 124" protects undocumented immigrants in New York City from being reported to the I.N.S. while they are using city services that are critical for their health and safety, and for the health and safety of the entire City.
There are times when undocumented immigrants must have a substantial degree of protection.
For example, parents fearful of having their family deported may very well not send their children to public schools.
That could mean that a potential 70,000 to 80,000 undocumented children might remain hidden in apartments or be turned out on the streets.
And some of these children are citizens -- born in the U.S. -- even though their parents were not.
If their parents take them out of school, not only will these children suffer irreversible damage, they will most likely end up doing damage to the rest of society.
Similarly, illegal and undocumented immigrants should be able to seek medical help without the threat of being reported.
When these people are sick, they're just as sick and just as contagious as citizens... and could possibly become a danger to public health.
And everyone should understand the practicality of wanting undocumented immigrants to feel comfortable reporting criminals to the police.
Reporting criminals protects all people, citizens and non-citizens alike.
It makes absolutely no sense to create a dis-incentive for immigrants to report crimes.
Muggers don't ask for a green card. the Federal Government should not mandate State and City policies that have the effect of reducing the number of undocumented immigrants reporting crimes.
And yet section 434 of the new welfare reform law would effectively invalidate New York City's "Executive Order 124."
I know that our executive order offends some people. they ask, "Why should we pay to provide services for illegal immigrants?"
The answer is, "It's not only to protect them, but to protect rest of society, as well."
The Federal Government's effort to overturn "Executive Order 124" is not only bad policy, it is a possible violation of the fifth and tenth amendments of the U.S. constitution.
It is my opinion that it violates the fifth amendment because it discriminates unfairly and invidiously based their immigration status.
But perhaps even more fundamentally, under our constitution rights not granted to the Federal Government are reserved to the states.
The right at issue here is the ability of New York City to exercise its police power.
The framers of our constitution and the architects of our Bill of Rights debated whether to give police power to the Federal Government.
In the end, they determined that this power should be given to state and local Governments.
When Ed Koch signed "Executive Order 124" it was a classic example of New York City's police power being used to protect the health and well being of our city.
Most likely, the Federal Government will reply that controlling immigration is one of their core functions.
But this is a disingenuous argument. the Federal Government will be forced to argue that it has to treat undocumented immigrants unfairly in to order to discourage others from coming here.
Attempting to control immigration by creating a dis-incentive for a woman to report to the police that she has been beaten up by her husband is a very weak argument.
And it's a horrible position for the Federal Government to take.
Earlier this month i said that New York City would challenge the constitutionality of Section 434 of the new welfare law.
Today I am announcing that New York City will also challenge the constitutionality of the parts of that law that deny benefits to legal immigrants who pay taxes.
We believe it may well constitute a violation of their fifth amendment rights.
If congress wants to limit immigration, they should not do it by being unfair to the immigrants they permit to enter the U.S.
I hope Washington will come to realize that immigration is a positive force for America.
If punitive legislation harms the process of immigration, it could also harm the U.S. economy.
One reason we are a great country is that immigrants who come here are often courageous and ambitious.
It takes courage and ambition to leave your native country and start a new life in a new land.
That's why immigration can be such a powerful force for progress.
Yes, there are problems that need to be solved, especially with illegal immigration. But we should not be looking for scapegoats. We should be looking for answers.
The anti-immigrant agenda we're seeing in Washington is based on a philosophy that sees people as liabilities.
I believe the vast majority of Americans continue to see people as assets who contribute and create opportunities.
That's what we're seeing in New York City. And with a more enlightened attitude in Washington, that's what we could be seeing in America.
In the last century, forward-looking, enlightened Americans joined together to stop the "know-nothings."
The result was more immigration and an incredible economic expansion in the twentieth century.
Today, we must do the same. We must stand up to the modern isolationist movement, and ensure that America's next century is as prosperous as the last.