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Amy Taylor

What Are the Candidates Saying about Immigration Reform? Giuliani on Immigration

Although his official announcement has not been made, Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City, seems to be in the race for the Presidency. Massive speculation about his candidacy abounded well before his formation of an exploratory committee late last year. On Monday he announced that he has taken another crucial step toward an announcement when he filed a "statement of candidacy" with the Federal Election Committee. The document stated that he would seek the Republican nomination if he decides to move forward with the campaign.

Giuliani served as the Mayor of New York City from 1994-2001. During this time, he regularly gave immigrants credit for making New York City the "Capital of the world" and recognized their contributions to New York's economy and culture in his speeches and at appearances.

After the federal government enacted a series of new immigration laws in 1996, Giuliani was an outspoken critic. He called the 1996 reform bills harsh and unfair to immigrants again highlighting his view that immigrants should be seen as assets and not liabilities.

In 1996 the City of New York filed a lawsuit against the federal government challenging a provision of the 1996 immigration reform laws. His administration challenged the new law that mandated states to report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. The law invalidated a New York City Executive Order from the Koch administration that protected undocumented immigrants who used vital public services from having their status reported to federal authorities. Giuliani argued that immigrants would be deterred from seeking vital services, including reporting crimes and fires, if they could be reported to the feds.

In the wake of welfare reform, Giuliani was also a strong advocate to restore public benefits to immigrants who were denied many of these benefits under the new laws passed in 1996, including undocumented immigrants. The City also sued the feds over provisions in the welfare reform laws that would deny benefits such as food stamps and SSI to certain categories of immigrants.

While always a staunch supporter of federal benefits for immigrants that would save the City money on services and a supporter of immigration reform that would legalize undocumented immigrants, many of Giuliani's local policies that affected immigrants were harshly criticized by immigrant rights advocates. For example, his administration had a dismal record for providing translation and interpretation services for limited English proficient New Yorkers and he ardently opposed expanding bilingual education programs for immigrant children. His administration was known for rampant mistreatment of immigrant clients by caseworkers under the Human Resources Administration's then-commissioner Turner who was focused on cutting welfare rolls at all costs.

More recently, Giuliani has begun to speak about immigration again. He has voiced support for "Comprehensive immigration reform", favoring the Senate bill last Spring over the House bill. He criticized the House bill as harsh and punitive to immigrants and predicted that this type of approach would harm our national security. When reacting to the provision in the bill that would have made unlawful entry into the U.S. a felony, he said it was unenforceable.

He has stated that enforcement-only provisions that are harsh and punitive will drive more immigrants underground actually threatening national security rather than making us more safe. "How do we create more security for the United States?...To deal with it in a punitive way is actually going to make us considerably less secure." His argument is that if immigrants are given official documents and become taxpayers it would be harder for them to hide from law enforcement and would make our communities safer.

Although his focus is usually on national security, especially as of late, his support for some sort of a legalization program is clear. He has stated numerous times that creating a way for undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows would actually improve our national security. "'ve got this tremendous number of people who are below the table. As long as you don't know who they are, as long as you can't get them to come forward, you can't identify them, you can't photograph them, you have to figure out who they are, then you have a dangerous situation."

He has also come out in support of guest worker programs for the same reasons. He argues that by regularizing the large population of workers who enter illegally, we would make our country much safer. "The president is right to support a guest-workers program...If we recognize it, document it, photograph it and know who and what it is, then we can concentrate our attention on the people who aren't coming in to be guest workers but are coming in to bomb us, or coming in to sell heroin or cocaine or to launder money."

His statements on immigration always begin and end with a focus on security. "But you've got to seal the border. And you've got to do it with personnel. And you've got to do it with technology. You've got to have both."

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Posted at 8:00 AM, Feb 07, 2007 in Politics | The Candidates on Immigration
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