I'm pleased to be with you this evening to talk about the anti-immigrant movement in America...
And why I believe this movement endangers the single most important reason for American greatness, namely, the renewal, reformation and reawakening that's provided by the continuous flow of immigrants who are seeking to create better lives for themselves and their families... and who succeed in doing so.
The Kennedy School is the right place to discuss this issue. The School's "statement of purpose" says that your mission is not only "to prepare leaders for service in government," but "to contribute to the solution of important public problems."
I believe the anti-immigration movement in America is one of our most serious public problems. And Washington is only making the problem worse. The anti-immigration movement can be seen in legislation passed by Congress and the President. It can be seen in the negative attitudes being expressed by many of the politicians in America today... And it can be seen in a growing sense of unease in the American workforce that somehow there aren't enough jobs to go around.
But the immigration issue is not being discussed in places where it really should be most visible. For example, immigration was not mentioned in last Sunday's Presidential debate. And that's unfortunate... America needs an open and frank discussion about immigration. This critical issue should be decided in public debate, not behind closed doors in Washington.
I am speaking out because I believe that a threat to immigration can be a threat to the future of our country. Just as they did in years past, immigrants today revitalize and reinvigorate the culture and economy of our cities and states. But history also shows that America goes through periods -- like the one we're in today -- where people become fearful of immigration.
In 1923, an anti-immigration song was published in New York called "Close the Gates!" The lyrics went like this:
"Close the gates of our nation,
lock them firm and strong!
Before this mob from Europe,
shall drag our colors down."
Unfortunately, this kind of fear-mongering often works. One year later, in 1924, Congress passed new immigration quotas, severely restricting the flow of new arrivals, especially from Italy, Greece, and eastern Europe. Immigration from China and Japan was effectively banned altogether. Commenting on the 1924 quota law, the New York Times said, "America the melting pot comes to an end."
Today, about 100 million Americans are descended from the immigrants who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. And millions more are descended from the immigrants who disembarked in Boston, beginning with the Puritans in 1630. Between 1880 and 1930, over 500,000 Italians entered America through Boston. Between 1830 and 1930, over 700,000 Irish arrived in Boston.
A member of my staff, Clark Whelton, has special reason to be grateful to Boston's historic role as a haven for new Americans. In 1848, his great-grandparents escaped the potato famine in Ireland and found new homes in Boston. Although they worked hard, they never had much money. But their only son, Daniel A. Whelton, became Mayor of Boston in 1905.
That's the magic of immigration... That's the magic of America. That same magic has worked for many of us.
My grandfather, Rodolfo Giuliani, arrived in New York City without much money in his pocket, but with a dream in his heart. And his dream of freedom and success became my dream. His dream of opportunity and achievement was shared by millions of immigrants from every part of the world. Their dreams transformed New York City, and Boston, and Los Angeles. Their dreams became the American dream.
Each one of us owes so much to immigration. That's why anti-immigration movements eventually die out. In the past we have always returned to the recognition that new Americans are good for our country. We realize that any effort to eliminate immigration or unfairly burden immigrants 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 a common race, religion, or ethnicity, but by their agreement on a set of principles centered on a strong belief in equality, democracy and opportunity. But sometimes our belief in those principles weakens. Today America is once again 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. When they see new people, they see problems.
I don't share that pessimism. When I see new people, I see new opportunities. I would like to take you to Kennedy Airport -- which in many ways is the Ellis Island of today -- and show you people coming to America from many different parts of the world.
In some ways they may look different and speak differently than the millions 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 today.
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. Basically, new immigrants to America are no different than the old immigrants to America. And the anti-immigration movement now sweeping America is no different than earlier anti-immigration movements.
We need only look back at the "Know-Nothing" movement that swept America in the mid-19th century. The "Know-Nothings" encouraged Americans to fear foreigners and stop immigration. No part of our country was immune from this hysteria. Even Massachusetts -- birthplace of the American revolution -- was gripped by a fear of foreigners.
In 1855, a young Irish immigrant named Mary Williams and her infant daughter Bridget were charged with the crime of poverty, and forcibly returned to Ireland. Even though she was not a pauper, and had never been a public charge, her passage back to Ireland -- which cost $12 -- was paid by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. With her on the boat -- also against their will -- went 35 other immigrants. A reporter for "The Boston Daily Advertiser" called Mary Williams "a victim of know-nothing intolerance."
But it was also in 1855 that one of America's greatest leaders had the courage to stand up and oppose the "Know-Nothings." He was Abraham Lincoln. 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 than native-born males... Foreign-born women are employed at the same rate as native-born women.
In New York City, immigrants own businesses in higher percentages than other Americans. And immigrants in New York City are 10 percent less likely than native-born Americans to be on public assistance. The fact is, immigrants are achievers. Nationwide, immigrants account for 50 percent of all professors of engineering. Immigrants account for 21 percent of all U.S. Physicians. Immigrants are net contributors to our economy. They are creators of wealth. They pay their own way.
So if you take away or severely restrict immigration, you will take away American jobs, American skills, and American productivity. I said earlier that I'd like to take you to Kennedy 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 in 1989, I was saddened to see that stores were closing, 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. Many of these people happen to have been born in China, Viet Nam, India, Korea and other parts of the world. In other words, they're immigrants... New Americans.
Many don't speak English, or speak it haltingly. That 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. Brighton 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 Woodlawn and other areas of the Bronx.
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 than it detracts?
For an answer, look at New York City. Currently, more than 28 percent of New York's population is foreign born. And that number is not unusual for New York. Twenty-eight percent foreign-born is roughly the average for our City in this century... It has ranged from a high of 40 percent in 1910, to a low of 18 percent in 1970.
And yet 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 -- according to information compiled right here at the Kennedy School -- New York City sends to Washington, D.C. each year about $11 billion more than it receives in return.
Contrast that with states like Georgia and Arkansas, which each receive about $1 billion a year more than they send to Washington. Much of the money that New York City contributes to other states was created by immigrants, and by the children of immigrants.
That's why I say that the whole process of immigration is something that Americans should embrace... Fair competition is the heart of the American 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.
And yet 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 over 700,000 a year. Last year it was 720,461. When these immigrants 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, these immigrants bring a lot of revenue to the federal government.
And yet, after having been invited here, and after being taxed like all other Americans, if they have difficulties and need assistance, many find that the federal government will wash its hands of any responsibility to help them. So the effect of the federal welfare bill is that in good times the federal government takes tax money from immigrants, but in bad times these immigrants become a state and local responsibility.
This is precisely the example of what our Congress and our President said they would never do: impose unfunded mandates on state and local governments. But the new welfare reform law is one of the largest unfunded mandates ever. The combined effect of this mandate is to shift millions of dollars in expenses -- for day care, for workfare, for welfare -- to states and cities around the country.
However, the anti-immigration part of the welfare reform law isn't new. In my view, it's cyclical. America has seen this kind of discrimination before. Back in the 1850's, an Irish immigrant named Hugh Carr was living in Massachusetts. He was a solid member of society, who faithfully paid his taxes. But when he became mentally ill, and required treatment in a hospital, he was placed on a boat and sent back to Ireland. Then and now, this kind of thing 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?
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 does not deport them. In New York City, which has 400,000 undocumented immigrants, only about 1,500 a year are deported. Under the new federal 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 ago 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 aliens 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 aliens reporting crimes.
And yet Section 434 of the new welfare reform law, and Section 642 of the new immigration 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 the rest of society, as well."
The federal government's effort to overturn "Executive Order 124" is not only bad policy, it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. It is my opinion that the new law is unfair because discriminates based on immigration status.
But perhaps even more fundamentally, under the Tenth Amendment to our Constitution rights not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states. During the recent Presidential debate, two things caught my attention.
First, at the very beginning, Senator Dole said the sharp drop in crime in New York City -- crime is down 38 percent since 1993 -- accounts for 30 percent of America's national decline in crime...
By the way, that's because while crime in New York City is down 38 percent, crime nationally is only down by an average of only three percent. I'm always looking for ways to get that information out...
The second time was when Senator Dole said he carried a copy of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution in his pocket. In my legal opinion, Section 434 of the federal welfare reform law, and Section 642 of the new immigration law, violate the Tenth Amendment.
Therefore, tomorrow the City of New York will file suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to challenge the constitutionality of Section 434 and Section 642 on the grounds I just mentioned.
The Tenth Amendment provides that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
One right not granted to the federal government is the right of state and local governments to provide for the health and safety of their local communities. This right is generally described as "the police power." 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 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.
Last month I said that New York City would challenge the constitutionality of section 434 of the new welfare law... We are also questioning 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. 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 City of New York will continue to seek those answers.
Today I am also announcing that my office will be working with a coalition of well-known individuals and organizations who oppose the anti-immigration forces now being seen in Washington and elsewhere.
Among the members of this coalition will be Bob Tisch, Co-chair and Co-C.E.O. of the Loew's Corporation...
Alan Greenberg, chair of Bear Stearns & Company, Inc...
The artist Peter Max, a naturalized American born in Germany...
George Soros, international financier and founder of the "Emma Lazarus Fund," which assists legal immigrants...
And Bill Fugazy, of NECO, the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, the single largest ethnic organization in the country.
A number of prominent organizations have also expressed interest in being part this effort, organizations such as the "New York Association for New Americans" (NYANA), and the "UJA Federation."
These people and organizations understand how important it is for our country to have a fair and constructive immigration policy. They will join me in seeking major revisions to the sections of the welfare and immigration laws that discriminate against immigrants.
These new laws were hastily passed in an election year... Their flaws must be addressed. The policy implications of these new laws are far worse. They, too, must be addressed. In order to do that, the attention of the American people must be focused on the positive aspects of immigration.
The motto of Harvard University is "Veritas" -- truth. The coalition will work to bring the truth about immigration to the American people. And the truth is that immigration rejuvenates and replenishes our nation, especially the urban centers that generate so much of America's wealth. Urban centers are the engines of the American economy, and immigration is the fuel that powers those engines.
The truth is that America is an immigrant nation with a long, proud tradition of inclusion and diversity. Let's defend and preserve the immigrant tradition that made America the greatest nation in the world.