By Sam Youngman - 05/01/07 07:49 PM EDT
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) yesterday joined much of the rest of the presidential field in attempting to walk a fine line on immigration, citing America’s need to address security concerns while acknowledging the large impact immigrants have on the country’s economy.
Giuliani outlined elements of his approach toward immigration during a speech at the Latino Coalition’s Small Business Economic Summit in Washington yesterday, the same day pro-immigration groups held marches around the country.
Giuliani also said new immigrants should be issued tamper-proof ID cards. “There’s no question that we’re entitled to security,” he said.
“Let’s sign them up, let’s register them, let’s collect their taxes and let’s let them pay their fair share,” Giuliani said.
He said the majority of illegal immigrants come to the U.S. looking to escape poverty and find a better life for their children.
However, he also said there are dangerous groups of illegals involved in gang activity, drug-dealing and potentially terrorist activities. Law-abiding immigrants, he said, should be registered, “and if you don’t, and we find you, then we’re going to throw you out because now you constitute a danger for us.”
Giuliani went on to make familiar conservative arguments for allowing immigration. He said those who do come forth should “be sent to the back of the line” — i.e., have to pay back taxes and demonstrate a comprehension of English.
Harking back repeatedly to his time as mayor, Giuliani said he once saw an estimate that 400,000 illegal immigrants lived in New York City’s five boroughs. His solution, he said, was to target drug-dealers first.
He said because “the problem was too darn big,” state Immigration and Naturalization Service officers were unable or unwilling to tackle his goal of targeting the criminal element before some cases involving expired visas.
The ex-mayor focused much of his speech on the role of increasing small-business interests that would help lift Hispanic and Latino workers out of poverty and into the middle class.
Giuliani, like many other Republican candidates, referenced President Ronald Reagan’s “Shining City on a Hill” speech when talking about why so many have immigrated here, be they Italian-American, Asian-American or Latino-American.
“It doesn’t matter what you are; it’s the American part that brings us all together,” he said.
Giuliani’s remarks fell on the same day that last year saw hundreds of thousands of protesters marching through cities and towns across the country, denouncing the more conservative proposals for dealing with the issue.
Similar protests were planned for yesterday afternoon, but Hispanic labor leaders and activists said they anticipated a far smaller turnout.
Congressional leaders continue to haggle over immigration. President Bush, Democratic presidential candidates and most of the top-tier Republican candidates all call for “comprehensive immigration reform,” but thus far, the devil is in the definition of the term.
Giuliani was the only candidate to accept the Latino Coalition’s invitation to speak this year, although every candidate from both parties was invited, officials said.