Politics & Policy

New York City Council Provides Even More Free Services to Illegal Immigrants

Now they can have residential status and free counsel.

The New York City Council will vote Thursday on two plans designed to make undocumented immigrants’ lives a lot easier. Both bills are expected to pass.

The first would provide municipal identifications cards to all New York residents, including those who are not documented citizens. These cards would allow illegal aliens to sign a lease, and open bank accounts, among other things. Similar local identification cards have been approved in a host of U.S. cities, including New Haven, Connecticut; Asbury Park, New Jersey; San Francisco, Richmond, Oakland and Los Angeles, California; and Washington, D.C.

Earlier this month, New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Karim Camara introduced a bill that would grant illegals New York state residence, including the right to vote, drive, and receive Medicaid, among other benefits. Peter Markowitz, a professor at Benjamin N. Cardoza School of Law said of the bill, entitled the New York is Home Act, “It’s up to New York to figure out who it’s political community is#…# New York gets to decide who is and who isn’t a New Yorker. The federal government may not interfere.”

Also Thursday, the Big Apple will vote on expansion of the Family Unity Program, a city council-funded enterprise that provides free lawyers to illegal immigrants facing deportation. Expanding the program will cost taxpayers $4.9 million.

The Family Unity Program has handled the cases of 190 detainees, almost half of whom were released or have a legal case that could lead to release. Other cities, including Chicago and Boston, are considering implementing similar programs. Advocates of the program say it aims to provide all illegal immigrants in New York State attorneys free of charge. This would come of a taxpayer price tag of about $7.4 million.

According to NBC News, if an initiative like Family Unity Program were established on a national level, it would cost $200 million and could save the federal government $175 million in detention costs.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimated in 2006 that illegal immigrants cost New York taxpayers more than $5.1 billion per year for education, medical care and incarceration.

F.A.I.R. broke that figure out as: $4.3 billion per year in education spending, $690 million a year in unreimbursed medical expenditures, and $165 million for jails and prisons. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates illegals in New York State pay about $900 million in taxes.

The New York Times lauded the bills, saying that they would “further cement New York’s reputation as one of the most accommodating places in the world for immigrants.” I am from New York and I have always been proud that my home state, and city, is one of the most accommodating places in the world for immigrants. Legal immigrants. Unfortunately, the City Council seems to have a desire for New York to be a haven for lawbreakers. And then they wonder why New York is experiencing an exodus.

— Christine Sisto is an editorial associate at National Review Online.

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