This year, in addition to marching as I usually do with the New York Police Department and the Fire Department and Manhattan College, I'm honored to march with the Department of Sanitation, as well, as they honor the memory of Mike Hanley who died tragically in the line of duty this past November while disposing of an illegal container. For more than 22 years, Mike led the Sanitation pipe and drums up Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick's Day. Tomorrow the city will join his family in remembering this extraordinary man.
And this year, as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, we'll also be commemorating the 150 year of the worst of the potato famines that swept through Ireland in 1847, in turn causing a dramatic surge of Irish immigration to New York City.
For over 300 years, New York City has a long and proud tradition of welcoming immigrants from every corner of the world who come here in search of refuge and opportunity.
Each year the United States accepts over 700,000 legal immigrants into our nation. Most of these immigrants come here because they want to create a better life for themselves and for their families, and in turn they help to create a better life for us. In fact, census data show that immigrants in New York work in slightly higher percentages than U.S. citizens. Immigrants challenge us to do better and we all benefit from their industry and their prosperity.
The federal welfare reform law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton unfairly discriminates against immigrants. Our administration has already gone to court to challenge some of these provisions that are not only unjust but dangerous to public health and safety. Possibly 60,000 to 80,000 children in New York City alone could be deprived of any chance to acquire an education in order to become productive citizens. This is an impractical and inhumane and dangerous thing to do.
In addition, we've also established a coalition of New Yorkers who oppose the anti-immigration forces now being seen in Washington and elsewhere.
In our latest efforts to combat anti-immigration sentiment, I'll be addressing the National Legal Conference on Immigration and Refugee Policy on Thursday in Washington, D.C., outlining the disastrous effects that the new welfare reform law -- if it's allowed to go into effect -- will have for New York City.
In particular, under the new law, the federal government will abandon most of its responsibilities in assisting immigrants who pay the same level of taxes as native-born Americans. These legal immigrants who experience the same problems and difficulties as citizens -- and who pay the same taxes as citizens -- will now be denied disability benefits and even food stamps, and states may also refuse to give them welfare assistance and non-emergency medical care.
The federal welfare reform law will have very, very bad effects for the people of our city and our nation. We must do everything we can to make revisions to the sections of the welfare and immigration laws that discriminate against immigrants, because immigrants, like the Irish-Americans we will be honoring on St. Patrick's Day, are what made New York City the capital of the world.
From Gracie Mansion, this is Rudy Giuliani wishing everyone a very happy St. Patrick's Day.