Where Public Safety and Human Rights Converge

Republicans are calling New York a sanctuary city. I say let's make it a sanctuary state.

This week I am introducing a bill (S6738) into the State Senate that will make it the policy of all New York State employees to keep immigration status confidential when providing essential services for law-abiding people.

It is simply unacceptable that so many crimes against undocumented immigrants go unreported because they are afraid to come forward to the police. This bill will go a long way in ensuring that all people within the state of New York are able to feel safe and secure.

Similar to the Governor's original plan to expand eligibility for driver's licenses, this proposal will increase safety for all New Yorkers.

By expanding the potential pool of information that law enforcement officials can access, more crimes will be solved and more law breakers will be brought to justice. This is a common sense measure that has worked in New York City and will work in New York State.

The bill is modeled on Mayor Bloomberg's Executive Order 41, a policy that has been embraced by every New York City since Ed Koch. My proposal goes one step further, and creates a mechanism to punish those agencies found in violation of the law.

Naysayers will tell you that such an approach contributes to rising crime rates, but crime rates have steadily declined in New York City since we've gone sanctuary.

The economic argument also strikes an incorrect chord.

The Social Security Administration receives an ever-increasing amount of W-2 earnings reports with incorrect Social Security numbers. The so-called "suspense file" generates $6 billion to $7 billion in Social Security tax revenue and $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes.

This, mind you, is money that undocumented immigrants pay into the system and will never get back. Far from being subsidized, they help to subsidize and stabilize our taxpayer funded programs.

As reported by the New York Times in 2005: "Social Security officials do not know what fraction of the suspense file corresponds to the earnings of illegal immigrants. But they suspect that the portion is significant. 'Our assumption is that about three-quarters of other-than-legal immigrants pay payroll taxes,' said Stephen C. Goss, Social Security's chief actuary, using the agency's term for illegal immigration."

My point is that undocumented immigrants don't just deserve emergency services because they are here in the country, but rather because they help to pay for them.

There is no great state-specific data for New York. But in Texas,
the state comptroller found that revenues collected by undocumented immigrants exceed what the state pays in services by $424.7 million. Removing all 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in the state would have meant a loss of $17.7 billion to the Gross State Product.

There's no question immigration is a complex issue. But first thing's first: If you treat certain people like second-class human beings, you're going to get second-class communities. If you keep certain people living in fear, you end up with a whole lot of people living in fear. And that has to end.

Senator José M. Serrano represents the 28th Senate District, which is comprised of parts of the South Bronx, Highbridge, University Heights, East Harlem, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island. He was first elected to the State Senate in 2004.