Much of the reason why New York has become the most successful city in the world is because of the energy, talent and drive immigrants infuse into our economy and culture. The very process of immigration has come to define New York City and our country and I believe it is a process that should be embraced by all Americans.
That is why during the past year New York City fought very hard to reverse the harmful and unfair provisions of the Federal Immigration Reform Law that targeted immigrants and threatened to deny them benefits to which they are entitled.
Virtually overnight, in New York City 150,000 legal immigrants were put in danger of losing benefits which totaled nearly $76 million a year. Many of these immigrants were among the most vulnerable of New Yorkers -- the elderly, disabled, and children under 18 years old.
As a result of constant pressure applied by New York City and other cities across the nation to reverse the anti-immigrant provisions of the Federal Immigration Reform Law, President Clinton and Congress reached an agreement on a budget bill to restore SSI eligibility to legal immigrants. This was a significant victory for the American people.
As we have led the way in so many other areas, such as crime reduction and welfare reform, during this last year New York City has led the country to a better, fuller understanding of immigration.
With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up this Thursday it is a fitting time to reflect upon the importance of immigration and what it has meant to our country. The true test of being an American is not a test of a person's ethnic background, religion, or race, it's a test of whether you truly believe that "all men are created equal."
If you live by that principle and adhere to that belief whether you came here a day ago or are descendants from the Mayflower -- you are an American.