Immigration

Giuliani Opposed Welfare Reform in Order to Protect Illegals

Rudy Giuliani’s record as a pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage New York City mayor is well known, but his willingness to shelter illegal aliens from federal immigration laws in the Big Apple should also give conservatives pause.

Under his control, the New York City Corp. lost a lawsuit against the federal government over Republican-crafted welfare reform legislation that required state and local authorities to report illegal aliens to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The law stipulated that only citizens and certain legal immigrants were to receive food stamps and imposed financial penalties on states that did not verify the legal status of those applying for the stamps.

Giuliani said the final welfare reform bill, signed by President Clinton in 1996, was “anti-immigrant” and, “although I do think the bill does some good, in the end I believe it does more harm than good.”

“I believe the anti-immigration movement in America is one of our most serious public problems,” he said in a speech the day before his lawsuit was filed.  “The anti-immigration movement can be seen in legislation passed by Congress and the President.”

At the heart of the issue was an executive order by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch (D.) that had been reissued by successive Mayors David Dinkins (D.) and Giuliani. Executive Order 124 forbade city employees from telling federal authorities the immigration status of illegal aliens who sought social services.

On these grounds, Giuliani maintained that the welfare reform law violated the 10th Amendment of the Constitution.

In a speech he delivered Sept. 11, 1996, exactly five years before the massive terrorist attacks, Giuliani explained the dilemma. He said the welfare reform legislation contained “a provision that attempts to reverse an executive order that New York City has had in existence since 1988, which basically says that New York City will create a zone of protection for illegal and undocumented immigrants who are seeking the protection of the police or seeking medical services because they are sick or attempting to put their children in public schools so they can be educated.”

His reasoning was that by allowing illegal aliens to access social services, it would help make New York City cleaner and safer.

“Illegal and undocumented immigrants should be able to seek medical help without the threat of being reported, possibly deported,” Giuliani said in his Oct. 13, 1996, Mayor’s Address.

On July 19, 1997, U.S. District Judge John Koelt, in his ruling against the New York City Corp., said that Giuliani’s policy would “create chaos.” In the opinion, Koelt said that the law did “not require the city to legislate, regulate, enforce or otherwise implement federal immigration policy. . . .  Instead, they [Congress] direct only that city officials and agencies be allowed, if they choose, to share information with federal authorities.”

After being defeated by the court, Giuliani sought to uphold his city’s protections for illegal aliens in another way.  Heather MacDonald, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute, in a piece for the City Journal in 2004 about illegal aliens and crime wrote, “On Sept. 5, 2001, his handpicked charter-revision committee ruled that New York could still require that its employees keep immigration information confidential to preserve trust between immigrants and government. Six days later, several visa overstayers participated in the most devastating attack on the city and the country in history.”

Giuliani left the mayor’s office in 2001 and was replaced by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg supported his predecessors’ commitment to illegal aliens and signed Executive Order 41, which classified immigration status as “confidential information.” E.O. 41 also said that “no city officer or employee shall disclose unless [the suspect] is engaging in illegal activity or is involved in potential terrorist activity.”

After signing E.O. 41, Bloomberg said, “People who are undocumented do not have to worry about city government going to the federal government.”

Because of these pro-illegal-alien executive orders, New York was one of 31 U.S. cities and counties deemed a “sanctuary city” in an August 2006 Congressional Research Service Report. (See page 3.) The report described sanctuary cities as places that have “utilized various mechanisms to ensure that unauthorized aliens who may be present in their jurisdiction illegally are not turned in to federal authorities.”

Radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham last week asked Giuliani about the immigration policies he supported in New York City. She asked, “Are you still standing behind your sanctuary city policy?”

Giuliani told her, “I never supported a sanctuary policy.”

He said he was willing to turn over undocumented criminals to federal immigration authorities, but would not turn over illegal aliens who had not committed a crime.

“I agree with my predecessors, they should be allowed to go to school. And, if they were victims of a crime, if an illegal immigrant was a victim of a crime, I would allow my police to interview them and get the information about the crime and not turn them in under that limited circumstance because if I didn’t do that I’d have a lot of criminals running around hurting people.” 

Sign Up