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New York sues feds over immigration, welfare laws

giuliani October 11, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK (Reuter) -- Mayor Rudolph Giuliani took his vocal pro-immigration stand to court Friday as New York City sued the federal government over provisions in two new federal laws on welfare and immigration.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court contends that the provisions, which allow city employees to turn in illegal immigrants who seek services like police protection, hospital care and public education, are unconstitutional.

Provisions in both laws overturned a 1985 New York City executive order that forbade city employees from reporting illegal immigrants, with the exception of criminal suspects.

Giuliani told a news conference that if people were turned in by city employees, the Immigration and Naturalization Service would "do nothing with those names but terrorize people."

The city claims the new laws violate the 10th Amendment, which gives the states all powers not expressly granted to the federal government, and seeks to prevent their enforcement.

Deterrant to reporting crimes

By filing the lawsuit, Republican Giuliani kept a promise to fight the provisions and fueled his momentum as a self-described national spokesman in favor of immigration, a position that has set him aside from many Republicans.

The lawsuit says the laws' provisions will discourage undocumented aliens from reporting crimes, which would make it harder for the city to protect all its residents.

"The reasons for this policy are evident: undocumented aliens who are witnesses to or victims of crime must not be deterred from coming forward for fear of deportation, nor should undocumented aliens who are infected with contagious diseases be deterred from seeking treatment, nor should undocumented alien children be afraid to attend public schools and forfeit their right to an education," the lawsuit says.

Giuliani, as mayor of an immigrant-dominated city, has often said that immigrants provide New York with its energy.

He told reporters Friday that he believes immigrants "revitalize and reinvigorate the culture and economy of our cities and states."

"What we need to do is get out a different message, a positive message about immigration throughout the country," Giuliani said. The Mayor has taken his views to forums outside his home city three times in the past two months.

Pro-immigration coalition

In his latest speech on the issue on Thursday night at Harvard University, Giuliani said the Welfare Reform Act and the Immigration Reform Act passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton were "inherently unfair."

He also announced that he wanted to form a coalition of individuals and organizations to fight anti-immigration sentiment and laws.

The welfare law that Clinton signed in August -- despite the opposition of some advisers and many in his own Democratic Party -- prevents most legal immigrants from receiving food stamps and income for the elderly and disabled.

About 400,000 undocumented aliens, 85,000 of school age, lived in New York City as of 1993, according to court papers. Under the new welfare plan, an estimated 130,000 of the city's immigrants would lose their food stamps by 1998, 30,800 would lose supplemental security income and 18,480 would lose Medicaid.

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