New York at war with Washington - World - News - The Independent

New York at war with Washington

The mayor of the 'capital of the world' is fighting anti-immigrant hysteria whipped up by the White House, writes John Carlin

"If the know-nothings come to power," wrote Abraham Lincoln, "I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

Rudolph Giuliani, the mayor of New York, borrowed that quote in a recent speech to dramatise his disgust at the petty-minded xenophobia gripping Washington these days.

Lincoln's "know-nothings" belonged to a movement of mid-19th century political agitators who succeeded in whipping up Americans into a frenzy of anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant sentiment. Giuliani's "know- nothings", as he explained on Thursday, are "people who try politically to take advantage" of those Americans "who have a very negative view of immigration in this country because they are very frightened of people who look different, people who talk different".

Such a view, the polls show, represents majority opinion in America today. "That is the prevailing view of new people," Mayor Giuliani acknowledged. "We go through these cycles when we're afraid for a while. That's been true of this country for 150 years."

The paranoia on the ground is stoked and fed in Washington, where President Bill Clinton signed a Republican-inspired "welfare reform law" in August whose provisions severely punish foreigners who seek residence - whether by legal or illegal means - in the United States. It is in a similar spirit that the Clinton administration is striving to look tough on the United Nations by making a scapegoat out of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and that both Republicans and Democrats have agreed to impose sanctions on countries like Britain and Canada that do business with Cuba.

Mayor Giuliani, a man with the looks and moral severity of a Vatican cardinal, has stood alone among high-profile American politicians to combat the predominant hysteria, making immigration his battleground to pit the cosmopolitan metropolis of New York - which he likes to describe as "the capital of the world" - against the narrow provincialism of Washington.

In so doing he has exposed Washington's best-known dirty little secret, that those who make the nation's laws in the White House and Congress are motivated primarily not by what is good for the nation, much less the world, but by their own desires for re-election.

In June, making a last-ditch effort to stop the anti-immigrant law from taking effect, Mayor Giuliani lashed out at his own party, calling on Bob Dole and other Republican leaders to refrain from election-year "political pandering". Mr Dole, he said, should demonstrate that he is "a leader and a statesman" and not "cave in to public opinion polls" showing that the majority of Americans favoured reduced levels of immigration.

Richard Schwartz, a senior adviser to Mayor Giuliani, expanded on his boss's unusually candid views. "In other parts of the country, elected officials think it's good politics to be anti-immigration. We say maybe it's good politics, but it's not good policy, because what we find is that immigrants are hard-working job creators whose presence tends to revive flagging city communities. And not only is it bad policy, it's immoral, because all of us are descended from immigrants, save for the Native Americans."

Mayor Giuliani is taking his battle against Washington to the courts. Without necessarily meaning to, the opening words of the legal complaint convey the imperious disdain New Yorkers notoriously feel towards their Little American cousins. "The City of New York, and Rudolph W Giuliani, as mayor of the City of New York, Plaintiffs - against - The United States of America, and Janet Reno, as Attorney-General of the United States, Defendants."

New York's case challenges the constitutionality of two provisions in the Welfare Reform Act. These impose a legal obligation on the police and all employees of New York city to report to the immigration authorities any illegal aliens who come to their attention. These provisions contradict a New York statute that specifically orders city employees not to transmit information regarding "any alien" to the immigration authorities unless exceptional circumstances apply. "New York is the only city that has these rules and it sticks in the craw of legislators in Washington that New York does this," Mr Schwartz said.

But does New York have any justification for sticking it to them in the first place, or is this just another example of Big Apple arrogance? Because as New York's legislative enemies in Washington see it, Mayor Giuliani, by seemingly encouraging illegal immigration, has taken the contrariness of America's wealthiest, most famous city to new heights.

Mr Schwartz said that the mayor was most definitely not in favour of illegal immigration. "But stemming the tide is unquestionably the federal government's problem. Our problems, once these individuals are in, are quite different and they will not evaporate into the ether because of this new legislation."

In the view of Mayor Giuliani the new legislation will pose grave dangers to a city whose illegal alien population is estimated at 400,000. It will make illegal aliens fearful of making contact with anyone employed by the city and, as a potentially "catastrophic consequence" (in the mayor's words), they will not come forward as witnesses or victims to a crime; they will not seek treatment if they are infected with contagious diseases; they will not send their 70,000 to 80,000 children to school, risking an epidemic of poverty and street crime.

No less counter-productive, Mayor Giuliani believes, are the provisions in the welfare reform law which cut off benefits to unemployed, disabled and elderly legal immigrants and deny them access to government health care for the first five years of their stay in the US. The New York Times, weighing in alongside the mayor against Washington, called these measures "morally repugnant".

Today a third of New York's tax-paying population is foreign-born - continuing evidence, in the eyes of Mr Giuliani, whose grandmother was an Italian immigrant, that the city's wealth, vitality and unique character is driven by immigration.

Herman Badillo, a highly successful New York lawyer who moved to the US from Puerto Rico when he was 11, knows Washington well and understands well the processes by which "bad and foolish laws" are passed. He served in Congress from 1970 to 1977 before quitting with a bad taste in his mouth to serve for two years in what he considers to have been the far more useful role of deputy mayor of New York.

"In Congress the issue is not 'What should be done?' but 'How does it benefit you?'" Mr Badillo said. "One way to secure elected office is to say you are against immigrants, which is a codeword for Hispanics and Chinese. By adopting this position, however unprincipled and impractical, you are translating the prejudices of the white American majority into votes."

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week