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Romney is referring to a policy in New York and many other cities that directs municipal workers not to tell federal authorities about someone who might be an illegal immigrant unless the person is suspected of a crime or the federal government specifically requires such a report.
The policy, which began in 1989 under Mayor Ed Koch and was continued by Giuliani, is still in effect. It is based on the belief that undocumented immigrants are reluctant to report crimes, fires and seek medical care for fear of being deported. The idea is that they will be more likely to do so if they are reassured that city workers won't report them to the feds.
Immigration enforcement is primarily a federal obligation and local police haven't played much of a role, unless they have found that a suspected criminal is an illegal immigrant. And the local rules have no effect on federal authorities, who can still arrest and deport illegal immigrants.
But opponents of illegal immigration have dubbed municipalities with these policies as "sanctuary cities," a term that conveys broader protection than the policies actually give. This is where Romney and Giuliani's attacks on each other are misleading.
Now Romney is correct that Giuliani was welcoming to immigrants and accurately quotes Giuliani's remarks from 1994. The comments come from a New York Times article that said Giuliani gave a "spirited defense of illegal immigrants, virtually urging them to settle in New York City." The article said he "criticized the growing hostility toward illegal immigrants across the country as simplistic and unsophisticated."
But Romney's claim that Giuliani "made New York City what's known as a 'sanctuary city,' where illegal aliens were allowed to come" suggests that the Big Apple was a unique safe haven where they would be free from deportation.
That's not true. Federal authorities could always enforce the law in New York.
And Romney's claim that Giuliani "instructed the leaders of the city not to enforce the law, not to enforce immigration law" is also misleading. City workers had no role in enforcing federal law. That's the feds' job.
So we rate Romney's attack on Giuliani as Half True because it exaggerates the real effect of New York City's policies and makes it seem like more of a "sanctuary" than it really was.
Boston Globe, GOP rivals spar on immigration , Aug. 15, 2007
Congressional Research Service, Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement, Aug. 14, 2006
Pew Hispanic Center, Unauthorized Migrants: Numbers and Characteristics, June 2005
CNN, Romney, Giuliani square off, Aug. 14, 2007
Executive Order 124, New York City Policy Concerning Aliens, Aug. 7, 1989
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