Fundamental to its mission is to highlight and educate the public about the important contributions that immigrants have made, and continue to make, to our city and our country.
In addition to the establishment of this Coalition, I'm also proud to announce that we are releasing a report prepared by the Department of City Planning, entitled "The Newest New Yorkers: 1990-1994," which provides an in-depth look at immigration patterns in the 1990's.
The report details how immigration continues to affect our city and reveals that, just as it has always been, immigration is the key to our city's growth and prosperity.
Standing here at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, I cannot think of better place to launch this Coalition, or a more poignant setting to remind New Yorkers about our country's strong immigrant tradition.
A point of entry for 16 million immigrants, Ellis Island stands tribute to New York City's proud tradition of welcoming immigrants from all over the world.
And as Congress convenes this February, the Coalition's first order of business will be to emphasize to Congress and the President the need to repeal the portions of the welfare and immigration laws that are unfair and perhaps unconstitutional.
These laws not only discriminate against immigrants but undermine the health and safety of all Americans as well.
Each year the U.S. accepts approximately 700,000 legal immigrants into our nation.
Most of these immigrants came here because they want to create a better life for themselves...they want to achieve...and they challenge each of us to do better.
And that is evidenced by the fact that immigrants work and own businesses in slightly higher percentages than native-born Americans.
Their hard work and self-determination adds to the economic opportunities and prosperity of our city and our nation.
In return for their privileges of American residency, immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes at the same rate as native-born Americans.
Despite the fact that immigrants pay the same level of taxes as citizens, if immigrants experience the same problems and difficulties as citizens the federal government now will largely abandon any responsibility in assisting them.
Specifically, legal immigrants are denied disability benefits and food stamps, and states may also refuse to give them welfare assistance and non-emergency medical care.
The new welfare law, therefore, is a classic example of how the federal legislators and the President announce that they have a problem solved only to shift the real burden onto the local governments.
For example, over the next five years in New York City, close to 70,000 disabled, blind and aged, legal immigrants will lose their federal SSI benefits for a total loss in $300 million dollars in federal aid.
The question then becomes, "What will happen to these vulnerable immigrants that the federal government has already allowed into this country?"
The answer is that this burden will be shifted onto our cities and our states, yet we are given no means by which to cope.
Indeed, over 75% of the money that the federal government will be saving comes from cuts in four states. These states are Texas, Florida, California and New York.
Of these four states, I will join with county officials and mayors to discuss the impacts of the federal cutbacks.
And within the next two months I will hold a conference of the mayors and county officials from these states to convene in New York City to discuss the impact of the anti-immigrant sentiment of the new welfare law.
We then will take the ideas and information obtained from this conference and make a strong appeal to Washington.
Our cities have long been the engines of the American economy, and immigration is the fuel that powers those engines.
America is an immigrant nation with a long, proud tradition of inclusion and diversity.
This tradition has helped America grow into the world's leading economic power.
That's why I say that the whole process of legal immigration is something that Americans should embrace... Fair competition is at 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.
The "Know-Nothings" of the mid-nineteenth century tried to isolate America, in a way very reminiscent of what is happening now.
It is a negative philosophy that sees people as liabilities. However, the vast majority of Americans have an optimistic view of humanity, seeing people as assets who contribute and create opportunities.
Forward-looking, enlightened Americans joined together to stop the "Know-Nothings," allowing for an incredible economic expansion in the twentieth century.
Now, we must do the same, and stand up to today's isolationist movement, ensuring that America's next century is as prosperous as the last.
That is why I am so proud to announce the establishment of this Coalition of well-known individuals and prestigious organizations who oppose the anti-immigration forces now being seen in Washington and elsewhere.
We understand how important it is for our country to have a fair immigration policy.
Together we will seek to make revisions to the sections of the welfare and immigration laws that discriminate against immigrants, because discrimination of any kind is intolerable.