July 28, 2000

Immigration Lawyers Urge Senate: Restore Fairness, American Values to Immigration

WASHINGTON, July 27 — The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the national voluntary bar association for immigration attorneys, today announced its strong support for S. 2912, "The Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act."

S. 2912, introduced by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Robert Graham (D-Fla.), would enhance family values by helping immigrants remain with their families; continue the longest economic boom in our nation's history by allowing employers to retain valued workers; recognize the value of long-term residents who have been treated unfairly; and expand fairness by treating all refugees of similar circumstances similarly. Specifically, the measure would restore Section 245(i), update the registry date to 1986 and create parity for similarly situated Central Americans and Caribbean refugees left out of NACARA.

"Immigrants, their families and supporters should applaud Senators Kennedy, Reid, Durbin and Graham for introducing S. 2912. This legislation would restore fairness, justice, and family values to America's immigration system," said Jeanne A. Butterfield, Executive Director of AILA.

Butterfield explained that restoring Section 245(i) would allow eligible immigrants who have passed all appropriate INS screenings to apply for green cards here, rather than be separated from their families, their occupations and their communities for up to 10 years. In its last year of existence, Section 245(i) generated approximately $200 million a year for the INS at no cost to taxpayers. That money could be used to reduce current backlogs.

S. 2912 also would continue the immigration reform initiatives undertaken by the Reagan Administration by updating the registry date, thereby allowing long-time residents to adjust their status.

President Reagan in 1986 granted long-time out-of-status residents one year to become lawful permanent residents. But the INS misinterpreted the law and turned away thousands of applicants. The Supreme Court ordered the INS to process those applications, but Congress in 1996 slammed the courthouse door in the applicants' face by stripping federal courts of the authority to review those cases. Updating the registry date for the sixth time since 1929 would allow those people denied justice the chance to have their applications processed.

Finally, Butterfield noted, S. 2912 would extend NACARA parity to certain Central American and Caribbean refugees. NACARA granted some people fleeing civil conflicts the right to become legal residents. But people from other countries facing similar circumstances were not allowed to apply for legal permanent residency. NACRA parity would remedy that injustice.

"These issues are of vital importance to immigrants nationwide. They represent justice, fairness, and family values for thousands of immigrants and their families. We call on Congress to enact this measure and `just get it done' before this session ends," Butterfield said.

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