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Date: September 17, 2003
Location: Blue Room, City Hall
Event:  Mayor Signs Executive Order Regarding City Services for Immigrants

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg:  Throughout our City’s history, people from around the world have been drawn to the freedom and opportunity that defines New York City.  As you know, immigrants, by the millions, have made New York their home and, as a result, New York City really has become the “World’s Second Home” - it is arguably the most unique, diverse, and vital City in the world. 

Immigrants have come to New York and written their own American success stories by working hard… by playing by the rules… by weaving themselves into the permanent fabric of city life.  They are the lifeblood of this city.  Their contributions to our history are beyond measure.  And they have always been and will always be welcome here.

Historically, the City’s commitment to our immigrant residents has meant more than just words.  It has also meant services.  Perhaps more than any other city in this country, New York City has a proven track record of offering its services to everyone, regardless of where they were born.  That longstanding policy is alive and well today.  And the reason is simple: what’s good for the City’s immigrants is good for the City.

When the child of an immigrant family is educated by our schools and grows up to be a productive member of our community, we all win.  The history of our city is replete with such success stories.

But there is another side to that coin: what hurts immigrants hurts us all. 

When the parents of an immigrant child forego vaccination for fear of being reported to the federal immigration authorities, we all lose.  Tuberculosis and other contagious diseases do not discriminate based on national origin.  They infect all children equally.

Likewise, we all suffer when an immigrant is afraid to tell the police that she has been the victim of a sexual assault or domestic violence.  As good as they are, our police officers cannot stop a criminal when they are not aware of his crimes, which leaves him free to do it again to anyone he chooses.  Which means that all of us lose.

For these reasons, this Administration has made open access to services a top priority from the very beginning.  In May of this year, I signed into law an Executive Order that restored protections originally instituted by Mayor Koch, protections which were then effectively gutted by Federal Legislation passed in 1996 and a subsequent decision by a Federal Court. 

For the first time in this City’s history, Executive Order 34 established a “don’t ask” policy that prohibited City workers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status in all but the most limited circumstances.  And -- for the first time since 1996 -- immigrant New Yorkers had the benefit of formal legal protection on the books.

There is no question that Executive Order 34 was a major step forward for immigrants and for all New Yorkers.  But some rightly asked if we could even go further - if we could offer even greater protection to immigrants seeking essential services from the city.  Today, it is my pleasure to tell you that the answer is “yes.”

The Executive Order I am signing today-Executive Order 41-is the most comprehensive privacy policy in the history of New York City. 

It is the product of a cooperative effort between this Administration, the City Council, and a number of immigrant advocacy groups.  It gives assurance to all law-abiding New Yorkers - whether you’re an immigrant, a victim of domestic violence, or any taxpayer - that the confidential information you give to the City will stay with the City.

Not only does it strengthen and clarify Executive Order 34’s “don’t ask” policy for immigration status, it also adds a “don’t tell” policy for a whole host of confidential information, including immigration status. 

And it offers these protections without tying the hands of law enforcement, or depriving them of the tools that they need to protect us all.  No one’s interest would be served by shielding those who break the law.

Let me take a moment to explain Executive Order 41.  Executive Order 41 is a far-reaching citywide privacy policy.  It not only protects information regarding immigration status, it protects other confidential information as well - like sexual orientation, status as a sexual assault victim or victim of domestic violence, even income tax records. 

The new law establishes a general rule that confidential information of this sort cannot be disclosed by City employees.  It also carves out common-sense exceptions to that rule - for example, when disclosure is required by law, or when it is necessary for the City to do its job. 

In sum, Executive Order 41 offers New Yorkers more protection for more types of confidential information than ever before.  Period.

But at the same time, the benefits of this new law are not unconditional. 

The promise of confidentiality is not for everyone, only for those who abide by the law.  It offers no protection to terrorists and violent criminals who seek to avoid responsibility for their crimes.  Nor is it a shield for law-breakers to hide behind. 

The bottom line is this:  if you play by the rules that apply to every resident of this City, you will be protected.  If you refuse to do so, then you will not.  It’s fair and it’s simple.

At its core, Executive Order 41 is a clear and unequivocal invitation to all law-abiding New Yorkers to come forward without fear or apprehension and avail themselves of the services that keep us all healthy, safe, educated, and prosperous.  This new executive order is good for our immigrant residents, which means it is good for all New Yorkers. 

There can be no more eloquent testimony to that fact than the presence of the people who join us here today - appropriately enough, on Citizenship Day - as I sign this Executive Order.

For their hard work in preparing this Order, I’d like to thank Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs Carol Robles-Roman, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, John Feinblatt, our Criminal Justice Coordinator, and John Crotty, the Director of the City’s Office of Legislative Affairs. I also want to thank the Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who is here with us today. One of our primary concerns is to make sure that he can keep us safe from crime, and keep us safe from terrorism. And also Sayu Bhojwani, who is the Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs who I was with this morning when people were being sworn in as U.S. citizens, and which she had the pleasure of having been done to her three years earlier.  Let me now ask our Speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller, to also say a few words.

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller:  Thank you Mr. Mayor. This is a very important moment I think for all New Yorkers. The executive order that you are going to sign is indeed an enormous step forward in terms of this city and this country, a leading light for this country and how to ensure that we treat everyone who is in this country fairly, equitably, and that we support everyone who comes here.  And particularly for New York to be leading the way is appropriate because this is the greatest city in the world, and it is the greatest city in the world because immigrants have been coming here for more than 350 years and we’re going to continue to provide that type of leadership and legacy for our country and for the world.  We need your leadership and we appreciate it and I applaud it. I want to particularly take a moment to acknowledge the work of my colleagues Bill Perkins, and most of all Hiram Monserrate who’s leadership on this subject has been exemplary. It’s a real honor to serve with such able, so many able council members, but on this issue Hiram, your leadership has been extraordinary and I am very grateful for it. And I want to close by thanking my staff that worked on this and helped bring us to this point where the administration, the Council, advocates can all come together and speak with one clear voice that New York is an immigrant city, and that we are proud of that legacy, and that we will do everything that we can to support all immigrants and their access to services that all of us need for them to get.

Mayor: Mr. Speaker I would also like to point out that Hiram Monserrate was the City Councilman that really did carry the ball on this and probably spent more time at this end of City Hall than the other one. 

Monserrate:  It’s all by design.

Mayor:  It’s all by design?  Certainly on this issue Hiram deserves a lot of credit for it.  Hiram, would you like to add something.

Monserrate:  Thank you Mr. Mayor for granting us this opportunity today, and I say granting us because it took a while for us to get here. We had lots of meetings, there was legislation that I introduced, and I want to thank the 36 co-sponsors of Access Without Fear within the City Council and the Speaker for signing on and moving forward this most important agenda.  But most definitely I also have to give credit to where it is due on this, and it is due very much in the hard work of the Council staff, the lawyers that were involved, New York Immigration Coalition, the Legal Aid Society, the New York Civil Liberties Union, groups, community groups like Alianza Dominicana and others who put so many hours into the effort of ensuring that these issues that are so important communities throughout our city are heard.

I represent the 21st Council District. As many of you know it is one of the highest not only overpopulated, but also high immigrant communities in our city. And I constantly hear the concerns that they have given to me and directed to me and I’m just happy to have been back here in City Hall to bring those needs and those desires to the table.  And I want to say that in government, this is all a learning experience for all of us, I’ve been in office 21 months, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with strong leadership in the Council. I want to thank Bill Perkins, who is the Chair of the Government Operations Committee who also was extremely instrumental in supporting this bill, and to our Speaker and to our Mayor. I want to thank you Mr. Mayor for bringing us together on this issue. We hammered the details at one point or another. We had different approaches, but at the end of the day we now have a comprehensive, bold, cutting edge executive order. This should be an example to cities throughout this country on what we should do to ensure confidentiality rights for all. 
Y a mi pueblo hispano, si se puede, nosotros nos podemos enfrentar aun a las potencies mas potentes en el gobierno y tener Victoria en la defenza de nuestro pueblo.  Gracias

Mayor:  Thank you Hiram.  Adriano Espaillat. If you’d like to say a few words. The Assembly is represented by you.

Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat:  Thank you. All 150 members.  This is a great day for us to be here. When I came to this country in 1964 I was undocumented. And I remember as a little boy, when we got here it took my family a couple of weeks to register my brother and I in school. And the first outing my older brother and I had was to Woolworth. My mother told me back then, “If you see any tall white guys with gray suits, don’t talk to them. That’s immigration.”  Sure enough we went to Woolworth, we saw two tall white guys, they didn’t’ have gray suits, they had blue suits, and I never forgot, I never forgot, my brother was much tougher than I was, I never forgot the fear that I felt within myself. So as Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic caucus, and as a member of the Assembly, it is for me really a special moment for me today to see that the City will still hold itself to its principles of being the home and a city of immigrants, and that although we suffered a great tragedy on 9/11, we’re standing here several blocks from where it all happened, we will not turn our backs on some of the most important things this city has as a legacy. Certainly being a city of immigrants where no one should have the fear when they go to a doctor or police officer or school is one of its most important assets.

I’m happy to be here with the Mayor in support of this amendment to Executive Order 41, and kudos to Speaker Miller and of course Hiram Monserrate and the Council leadership who have taken up this very, very, important task to so many New Yorkers. Congratulations Mr. Mayor.

Mayor:  Thank you. And Bill Perkins, you should be very proud and thank you. Would you like to say a word?

Councilman Bill Perkins: Sure. First of all I want to thank you Mr. Mayor for this Executive Order 41. And having helped to create the kind of consensus between the Mayor’s side and the City Council’s side along with the advocates to assure folks that New York is an immigrant friendly city. Unsolved crimes as a result of people’s fears, now folks may come forward, not realizing that there is protection. People who are sick and unhealthy will now be able to have access to health services. I want to thank Matthew Tollin and other members of the Council Staff, particularly the Governmental operations staff that joined Hiram in these tough negotiations during this period. I want to thank the Mayor’s staff as well that endured these tough negotiations to get us to this point. I believe this is a shining example of how our two sides of City Hall can come together to best serve the people of the City of New York, and if its any regret that I have, it is that we did not get a chance Hiram to pass this bill Hiram out of my committee and that I could have gotten some credit for that. (Laughter) But it’s better this way. Thank you very much.

Mayor:  You deserve a lot of credit, don’t worry about that.  And now, Margaret McHugh, who is the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, if you’d say a few words.

Margaret McHugh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition:  Thank you Mr. Mayor. We’d like to on behalf of the 150+ members of the New York Immigration Coalition, at least 15 or 20 of whom I see here in the audience and up here, we would both like to thank and congratulate the Mayor for signing what is the strongest local confidentiality policy in the nation protecting immigrants from unnecessary collection of immigration status information. We’re delighted to have reached this point. We think that this policy is a classic example of doing both the right thing and the smart thing for all New Yorkers. It rightly is (inaudible) that the only way to protect the health and safety of our city is to make sure that all New Yorkers feels safe interacting with government workers be they police officers, firefighters, teachers, doctors, nurses, or other city agency staff, but at the same time, it doesn’t tie the hands of police, or other city workers, who must investigate crime or fraud. We are so proud that this policy is coming out of New York, which we believe is as it should be. That New York has led the nation in many immigrant policies and is doing so again now. We’d like to say a special thank you to Deputy Mayor Carol Robles-Roman and Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Sayu Bhojwani who spent so much on this issue. Speaker Miller, members of the City Council, particularly Council members Monserrate and Perkins who have been championing this issue from the beginning. But most of all Mr. Mayor we want to thank you because we were at somewhat of an impasse and it really was your commitment and your openness and your courage that really got us to the right place on this, so many, many, thanks.

Mayor:  Thank you Margaret.  Commissioner Bhojwani, would you add something.

Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Sayu Bhojwani:  Thank you.  I just want to say that today’s signing of Executive Order 41 is important to me personally and professionally for several reasons. For one, it is the reaffirming of the Mayor’s commitment to immigrant communities, saying once again that he believes that people who are entitled to services should be able to access them. Also, as the Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs, representing the Mayor in a lot of immigrant communities, no solamente los quien hablan espanol, but all the others, Haitian, Russian, Chinese speaking, all the many diverse communities of this city, I hear every day directly from people how afraid they are. And even though we in this city believe that we are providing that service well and without any reason for fear, this policy was an important message, a reiteration of a message that was sent out in Executive Order 34. And finally I want to say as a member of the South-Asian community, which many of you know that along with the Arab-American communities have experienced a great deal of fear and harassment since September 11th, this is another message from Mayor Bloomberg to say that this is a place where we can all, regardless of color and national origin and immigration status feel safe and make our home.  Thank you.

Mayor:  Thank you. I just wanted to acknowledge some other people here who have all been very supportive and who’s input really has gone into this bill. We have three council members sitting at the end here, Miguel Martinez, John Liu, and Leroy Comrie, and we have either here or in the audience, and I hope I don’t get anybody’s name wrong, Emira Habiby-Browne of The Arab American Family Support Center; Don Lee of Homecrest Community Services; Tom Yu of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association; Chris Chan and Jennifer Kim of the Asian American Bar Association of New York; Dr. Mohammed Khalid of the Staten Island Pakistani Civic Association; Moe Razvi of the Council of Pakistani Organizations; Wellington Sharp of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Jan Brown of the New York State Bar Association Immigration Committee; Christopher Kui of Asian Americans for Equality; Bryan Pu-Folkes of the New Immigrant Community Empowerment and a Member of The City’s Human Rights Commission; Joe Semidei of The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families; Moises Perez of Alianza Dominicana; and Assemblyman Monserrate… Sorry I didn’t promote you that way, Espaillat.  Yeah I was going to say you were an Assemblyman, but your not, you’re a City Councilman. I just wanted to thank you again Hiram because you really did deserve to carry all of this.  Right there might be a movement to get you to Albany, I’m not sure. Anyway, I’m about to sign the order, just let me repeat, New York really is the world’s second home, we are the most tolerant place. Every once in a while an event occurs that we are not proud of, but as long as we respond, recover, make sure that we don’t make the same mistake twice and go on, this will stay the place that when people vote with their feet, they come to… I have never been prouder in my life to be an American, and every day when I talk to my mother, I think, ‘You know, supposing her parents or grandparents hadn’t come here, what would’ve happened.’  We are all, everybody in this room, everybody out there is just so lucky to be in this place.  Let me now sign this executive order, with a lot of pens, because we have a lot of people who I think will want one.