August 4, 2000

Immigration, Congress and Politics

Congress is expected to act on three major immigration items in 2000: increases in the H-1B quota; restoration of Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act; and an update of the registry for would-be immigrants from 1972 to 1986- unauthorized foreigners in the US since the registry date may apply for legal immigrant status. The Clinton administration supports all three changes; many control-minded Republicans in Congress do not.

There was movement on these issues at the end of July. In the Senate, the Central American and Haitian Adjustment Act was attached as an amendment to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides federal funding for K-12 schools. This amendment would update the registry, put all Central Americans and Haitians on the same footing as Cubans and Nicaraguans when they seek to remain in the US, and restore Section 245(i) of the Immigration Act (ended in 1997), which allows foreigners in the US when their immigrant visas become available to pay a fine to the INS and remain in the US rather than return to their country of origin to obtain the visa from a US consulate.

Some high-tech employers called for a "clean bill" dealing only with the H-1B quota. The Clinton administration and many Congressional Democrats want a bill that includes other elements of "Fix 96," the general term for efforts to repeal some of the provisions of the three major 1996 immigration laws.

The AFL-CIO in February 2000 called for an amnesty for unauthorized foreigners in the US, and there was a "march for amnesty" on Capitol Hill on July 20, 2000. Benedict Ferro, the person who ran the 1986 legalization program for the INS, said: "Amnesty is inevitable. It's a question of when."

Congress is considering banning the sale of Social Security numbers, and prohibiting stores from, for example, having check writers put their SSNs on their checks. Since 1935, some 400 million SSNs have been issued, and no federal law regulates use of the SSN.

Hispanic Voters. There are expected to be about 5.5 million votes cast by Hispanic voters in November 2000, with 58 percent cast by Mexican-Americans, 12 percent by Central and South Americans, 11 percent by Puerto Ricans, seven percent by Cubans, and four percent by Dominicans. About 45 percent of Hispanic voters are expected to be foreign born, up from 20 percent in 1990.

According to the June 2000 Knight Ridder Hispanic Voter Poll of 2,700 registered Hispanic-American voters, Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate was preferred among Hispanic voters 54 to 32 percent over George Bush, governor of Texas. In 1996, about 72 percent of Hispanics voted for Bill Clinton and 21 percent supported Bob Dole. Observers emphasize that Bush is the most attractive Republican candidate for President to Hispanics in decades.

Return to Frontpage