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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Congressional Record: July 11, 2000 (House)]

[Page H5744-H5748]

From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

[DOCID:cr11jy00-87]                          

            ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS OF CERTAIN SYRIAN NATIONALS

 

  Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill 

(H.R. 4681) to provide for the adjustment of status of certain Syrian 

nationals, as amended.

  The Clerk read as follows:

 

                               H.R. 4681

 

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 

     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

 

     SECTION 1. FINDINGS.

 

       The Congress finds as follows:

       (1) President Bush and President Clinton successively 

     conducted successful negotiations with the Government of 

     Syria to bring about the release of members of the Syrian 

     Jewish population and their immigration to the United States.

       (2) In order to accommodate the Syrian Government, the 

     United States was required to admit these aliens by first 

     granting them temporary nonimmigrant visas and subsequently 

     granting them asylum, rather than admitting them as refugees 

     (as is ordinarily done when the United States grants refuge 

     to members of a persecuted alien minority group).

       (3) The asylee status of these aliens has resulted in a 

     long and unnecessary delay in their adjustment to lawful 

     permanent resident status that would not have been 

     encountered had they been admitted as refugees.

       (4) This delay has impaired these aliens' ability to work 

     in their chosen professions, travel freely, and apply for 

     naturalization.

       (5) The Attorney General should act without further delay 

     to grant lawful permanent resident status to these aliens in 

     accordance with section 2.

 

     SEC. 2. ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS OF CERTAIN SYRIAN NATIONALS.

 

       (a) Adjustment of Status.--Subject to subsection (c), the 

     Attorney General shall adjust the status of an alien 

     described in subsection (b) to that of an alien lawfully 

     admitted for permanent residence, if the alien--

       (1) applies for adjustment of status under this section not 

     later than one year after the date of the enactment of this 

     Act or applied

 

[[Page H5745]]

 

     for adjustment of status under the Immigration and 

     Nationality Act before the date of the enactment of this Act;

       (2) has been physically present in the United States for at 

     least one year after being granted asylum;

       (3) is not firmly resettled in any foreign country; and

       (4) is admissible as an immigrant under the Immigration and 

     Nationality Act at the time of examination for adjustment of 

     such alien.

       (b) Aliens Eligible for Adjustment of Status.--The benefits 

     provided by subsection (a) shall apply to any alien--

       (1) who--

       (A) is a Jewish national of Syria;

       (B) arrived in the United States after December 31, 1991, 

     after being permitted by the Syrian Government to depart from 

     Syria; and

       (C) is physically present in the United States at the time 

     of filing the application described in subsection (a)(1); or

       (2) who is the spouse, child, or unmarried son or daughter 

     of an alien described in paragraph (1).

       (c) Numerical Limitation.--The total number of aliens whose 

     status may be adjusted under this section may not exceed 

     2,000.

       (d) Record of Permanent Residence.--Upon approval of an 

     application for adjustment of status under this section, the 

     Attorney General shall establish a record of the alien's 

     admission for lawful permanent residence as of the date one 

     year before the date of the approval of the application.

       (e) Availability of Administrative Review.--The Attorney 

     General shall provide to applicants for adjustment of status 

     under subsection (a) the same right to, and procedures for, 

     administrative review as are provided to applicants for 

     adjustment of status under section 209(b) of the Immigration 

     and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1159(b)).

       (f) No Offset in Number of Visas Available.--Whenever an 

     alien is granted the status of having been lawfully admitted 

     for permanent residence pursuant to this section, the 

     Secretary of State shall not be required to reduce the number 

     of immigrant visas authorized to be issued under any 

     provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

       (g) Application of Immigration and Nationality Act 

     Provisions.--The definitions contained in the Immigration and 

     Nationality Act shall apply in the administration of this 

     section. The fact that an alien may be eligible to be granted 

     the status of having been lawfully admitted for permanent 

     residence under this section shall not preclude the alien 

     from seeking such status under any other provision of law for 

     which the alien may be eligible.

 

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 

Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Weiner) 

each will control 20 minutes.

  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas).

 

 

                             General Leave

 

  Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may 

have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks 

and include extraneous material on H.R. 4681, as amended.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 

gentleman from Pennsylvania?

  There was no objection.

  Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

  Mr. Speaker, in 1992, the Bush Administration successfuly negotiated 

with Syria to secure the release of persecuted Syrian Jews. To 

accommodate the Syrian Government, the U.S. was forced to admit the 

refugees on temporary visas and grant them asylum, rather than 

admitting them as refugees.

  This arrangement resulted in long delays in adjustment to lawful 

permanent resident status, which in turn has impaired their ability to 

work in their chosen professions, travel freely, and apply for 

naturalization.

  H.R. 4681, which ends this delay, was introduced by the gentleman 

from New York, my friend and colleague Rick Lazio.

  Congressman Lazio's attention to the welfare of this once-persecuted 

community is admirable, and I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Lazio), and 

I ask unanimous consent that he be permitted to control the time for 

the balance of the debate.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 

gentleman from Pennsylvania?

  There was no objection.

  Mr. LAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

  Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by thanking the gentleman from 

Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas), the chairman of the relevant subcommittee, 

for his leadership in allowing this bill to come to the floor, a bill 

that is of great importance in terms of both the sense of American 

justice and worldwide justice.

  I also want to thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. Weiner) for his 

assistance in making sure that we got this bill to the floor.

  Mr. Speaker, can one imagine a country where the Jewish community 

lives in an atmosphere of oppression and repression? Can one imagine a 

nation whose absolute ruler keeps his entire Jewish population in 

servitude and in slavery?

  Mr. Speaker, I know we are here to discuss the question of Jews who 

have sought asylum in the United States from Syrian tyranny and terror, 

but I would like for a moment to mention a case from an earlier era, a 

case that applies timeless lessons that can be applied to the matter 

that we are discussing here today.

  Yes, Mr. Speaker, the analogies between these two cases are 

instructive. The parallels are profound. The similarities are 

significant. Mr. Speaker, some 3,000 years ago, another Jewish 

community was held in bondage in a place called Egypt. Just as the 

Israelites were held hostage for years by Pharaoh, for years, the 

Syrian Jewish community served as a bargaining chip in a game of high 

stakes yet again. Pharaoh marshalled his army and marched and pursued, 

determined to enslave the Israelites again.

  When the Syrian dictator Assad finally decided to let Syria's Jews 

leave for freedom, he imposed a condition on their departure, a 

condition that would continue to limit the lives of these Jews in their 

new home. Assad demanded that these Syrian Jews be allowed into the 

United States as asylum seekers rather than refugees. Assad made this 

demand for a reason. He was aware that the United States immigration 

law makes it far more difficult for those who are asylum status to 

become American citizens.

  As a result, Mr. Speaker, the Jews who fled Syrian persecution to the 

United States exist in legal limbo today. Many of them have no green 

cards. Many of them cannot pursue their chosen professions because they 

live in an immigration no-man's land that is neither here nor there.

  Mr. Speaker, just as the Pharaoh's spite and malice made him pursue 

the fleeing Israelites, Assad's animosity propelled the long arm of 

interference that prevents these Jewish asylum seekers from integrating 

into America's society.

  Well, Mr. Speaker, we all know what happened to Pharaoh and his army. 

Now we have an opportunity to enact the legislative equivalent of the 

closing of the Red Sea. Let us wash away the last bonds of slavery 

imposed on these Syrian Jews by an unfair and unjust dictator. Let us 

allow the Syrian Jews who have sought refuge in America to taste fully 

fruits of freedom.

  Mr. Speaker, the Talmud teaches us that whoever saves one life, he 

has saved the entire world. Mr. Speaker, we have saved these Syrian 

Jews from threats of violence, imprisonment, and torture. We saved 

these Jewish asylum seekers from the bitter servitude that was their 

lot in their native land. But, Mr. Speaker, the task is not complete. 

As long as these Jews are denied an equal chance for citizenship, they 

will not truly have been brought to freedom.

  Mr. Speaker, we began this task, we brought these Jewish asylum 

seekers from a regime of oppression into the promised land of liberty. 

Let us finish the job and pass this bill. This bill will allow them to 

become the active participants in the American dream that all Americans 

wish for.

  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

  Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

  Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. Lazio) 

for his great work on this bill. I also want to particularly thank the 

gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith), the chairman of the Subcommittee on 

Immigration and Claims.

  I had originally offered a form of this bill in committee during the 

debate on the H-1B reform legislation, and the gentleman from Texas 

(Mr. Smith) was kind in offering to help us make this issue a reality 

in some other form. I am glad that we are here on the floor to finally 

act on this.

  Mr. Speaker, passage of this bill today will finally begin to bring 

closure for a group of Syrian Americans who have been persecuted for 

over 50 years.

 

[[Page H5746]]

 

  In 1944, after Syria gained its independence from France, several of 

the first acts taken by the fledgling government were designed to 

persecute Syria's small 2,500-year-old Jewish minority. Jewish 

immigration to Palestine was prohibited. The teaching of Hebrew was 

severely restricted. Boycotts were ordered against Jewish businesses. 

When the partition of Israel was declared in 1947, mobs in Aleppo 

attacked the Syrian Jewish community; over 200 homes were destroyed. 

Scores of Jews were slaughtered and synagogues were literally torched. 

Thousands of Jews illegally fled Syria to go to Israel.

  In the years since 1947, the Jews' situation in Syria worsened. They 

were not permitted to emigrate. Jews who did temporarily leave the 

country were forced to post an onerous monetary deposit and literally 

to leave family members behind so as to assure their return. In the 

past, Syrian secret police engaged in 24-hour-a-day surveillance of the 

Jewish quarter in Damascus. They kept a file on every Jewish person, 

monitored all contacts between Jews and foreigners, and read the mail 

and tapped the phones of Syrian Jews.

  Members of the Syrian Jewish community have been arrested on the mere 

suspicion of their intention to leave that country. They have been 

imprisoned without trial and tortured.

  In 1992, the Bush administration made a diplomatic breakthrough in 

their negotiations with the late President Assad. Syrian leaders agreed 

to let Jews leave the country without the large deposit. Syria also 

allowed several complete Jewish families to leave the country. He still 

would not let Syrian Jews emigrate to Israel, but most of them went to 

the next best place, Brooklyn, New York, my district, and the district 

of the gentlemen from New York, Mr. Nadler and Mr. Owens.

  Brooklyn is now the home to over 25,000 Syrian Jews. The names of the 

Brooklyn neighborhoods that they came to were chanted in the shoals in 

Syria when this deal was announced.

  Since the diplomatic breakthrough of almost 10 years ago, these 

Syrians have come to Brooklyn by the thousands and established 

themselves as model citizens. They are really part of the American 

dream.

  But there is a problem that survives to this day and a problem that 

we seek to resolve with this legislation. Assad would not let these 

departures be labeled emigration in any way. He needed to save face. He 

forced the Jews to buy round trip plane tickets, and the INS agreed, 

our INS agreed as part of this deal to admit these Jews as tourists. 

They were then granted asylum. As asylee tourists, Syria's Jews 

received temporary non-immigrant visas. Usually, when the United States 

admits members of a persecuted alien minority, it admits them as 

refugees.

 

                              {time}  1030

 

  This is the critical difference under U.S. immigration law. It is 

very difficult for asylees to become permanent residents, and without 

permanent resident status, Brooklyn's Jews from Syria have been unable 

to travel freely, to apply for full citizenship, and to work in their 

chosen professions.

  If Syrian Jews had been admitted as refugees, as is often the case 

from other countries, as they certainly would be by any sense of the 

word, they would likely be full citizens today. Instead, thousands of 

them reside in a form of immigration limbo. They have escaped Assad's 

persecution, but most of them have been unable to become permanent U.S. 

residents.

  This bill changes that. It directs the Attorney General to adjust the 

status of these Syrian Jews to that of lawful permanent residents. 

Passage of this bill will signal the House's intention to close this 

awful chapter in Jewish persecution history. And when the President 

signs H.R. 4681 into law, these thousands of Syrian families will 

finally be able to fully participate in American life, a privilege they 

should have had years and years ago.

  One final note to my colleagues. The recent passage of President 

Assad in Syria has brought with it a good deal of revisionist history. 

While we are taught not to speak ill of the dead, we have to remember 

that with Assad's passing, we also have to close a chapter in what has 

been the improper way that these emigres have been treated.

  I want to commend the sponsors of this legislation, and I urge all of 

my colleagues to vote in favor of this historic bill.

  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

  Mr. LAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

  There are two other sponsors of the bill that I wanted to recognize 

for their hard work. One is the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Franks) 

and the other is a tireless advocate, the gentleman from New York (Mr. 

Gilman).

  I just wanted to emphasize with a personal story, Mr. Speaker, the 

cruelty and the injustice of the current status of Syrian Jews and talk 

about a person who has the potential to make a great difference in our 

society.

  Joseph Durzieh. Joseph was a brilliant medical student at the 

University of Damascus, one of the handful of Jews allowed to pursue a 

higher education in Syria. And just for an aside, Mr. Speaker, I would 

note that it was not so long ago that Jews were not permitted to hold a 

government position or to work in a bank in Syria. There was that level 

of bias and discrimination.

  Joseph came to America in 1992 and immediately proceeded to pass his 

United States medical equivalency exams with flying colors. He 

completed his internship in New York and now is working in a State 

University of New York fellowship program in Brooklyn.

  Mr. Speaker, Dr. Durzieh is a well-respected physician. He is highly 

esteemed by his fellow doctors. He is highly valued by his employers. 

He is highly beloved by his patients. Yet because he has been unable to 

obtain a green card, he cannot obtain a license to practice medicine in 

America. When his fellowship expires next year, Dr. Durzieh will have 

no choice but to leave the medical field.

  Mr. Speaker, if that were to happen, we will all be the poorer for 

it. We will all be the poorer if because of an emigration law 

technicality the people of New York are deprived of the services of a 

gifted physician. We will all be the poorer if because of the 

vindictiveness of a Syrian regime we do not allow Dr. Joseph Durzieh to 

use his talents as a healer.

  Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity here to see that justice is done, 

to ensure that the taste of freedom that all others enjoy are enjoyed 

by Syrian Jews. I urge the House to strongly, strongly support this 

measure.

  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

  Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the 

gentleman from New York (Mr. Nadler).

  Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill, and let me 

begin by expressing my appreciation to the leadership of the Committee 

on the Judiciary for rushing this bill to the floor, this simple and 

just bill.

  This bill was introduced by the gentleman from New York (Mr. Lazio), 

the gentleman from New York (Mr. Weiner), the gentleman from New Jersey 

(Mr. Franks), the gentleman from New York (Mr. Gilman), the gentleman 

from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone), and myself on June 15, less than a month 

ago, and here it is on the floor. Lightning speed, as legislation goes. 

As I said, I want to express my appreciation to the committee 

leadership for that.

  Mr. Speaker, we are dealing here with the result of the tyrannical 

conduct of the Syrian government, which for generations held the Jewish 

population, the small Jewish population of Syria, hostage to its 

tyranny. Even today the Jews and the Kurds are the only minorities in 

Syria not allowed by law to participate in the political system, and 

the Jews are the only minority in Syria whose passports and identity 

cards must note their religious affiliation.

  In 1992, as was said before, as a result of negotiations by the 

President, President Assad of Syria agreed to let those Syrian Jews 

emigrate to the United States so long as they pretended they were not 

emigrating. So instead of being classified as refugees, because we 

agreed, the United States Government, to play along with Assad to let 

him save face, they came here as tourists, on tourist visas, and were 

then granted political asylum. Because of that, they are not granted 

the same right as other refugees and the same ability to regularize 

their status and eventually become United States citizens.

 

[[Page H5747]]

 

  The United States should not subordinate our justice system and our 

naturalization system to the tyranny of Syria. This simple bill asks a 

simple thing: Change the status of this small group of people, and the 

bill is capped at 3,000, change the status of this small group of 

people, in effect to refugees, as they really were and are, give them 

the same rights and stop kowtowing 8 years later to the whim of the 

Syrian dictator.

  It is a just bill, it is a good bill, and it is a simple bill. It 

rights an injustice, and it will be of great benefit to a number of 

people, albeit a small number of people; but justice demands its 

passage. I urge all my colleagues to vote for the bill.

  Again, I thank the leadership of the Committee on the Judiciary, the 

gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde), the gentleman from Pennsylvania 

(Mr. Gekas), and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) for helping 

speed this bill to where it is today.

  Mr. LAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the 

gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas), the distinguished subcommittee 

chairman.

  Mr. GEKAS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this 

time, and I want to, by way of wrap-up, to pay tribute to the gentleman 

from New York (Mr. Lazio) for the expedited procedure, to which the 

gentleman from New York (Mr. Nadler) alluded in his remarks, about how 

swiftly and accurately this bill was brought to the floor at this 

juncture.

  Witness what the gentleman from New York was able to do. A bill that 

came out of committee came to the floor under the auspices of the 

Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims. The gentleman from Texas (Mr. 

Smith), who was not able to be here today, and the committee was not 

able to act as such, so there was a recruitment of the chairman of the 

Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law to appear on the 

floor and to then recruit the gentleman from the minority side to be 

able to come to the floor and to give a history of the situation that 

brought us to this juncture.

  All of this was done in a short period of time. And with much 

eloquence the gentleman from New York (Mr. Lazio), the gentleman from 

New York (Mr. Nadler), and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Weiner) 

explained the situation to us, and we are now well poised to proceed 

with enactment of this bill.

  Mr. WEINER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume to 

commend the leadership, particularly that of the subcommittee chairman, 

the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Smith).

  Lest we too dramatically rewrite the history of this bill, let us 

remember that this first came to the full Committee on the Judiciary, 

as my good friend from Pennsylvania just recognized, in the form of an 

amendment that was offered on the H-1B bill, where the gentleman from 

Texas (Mr. Smith) was kind enough to object to its passage at that time 

but offered to see that it was handled expeditiously. And I too want to 

thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. Lazio) for taking up the cause 

on the Republican side.

  Let us not forget that these are real people in Brooklyn who are 

awaiting simple justice. I have to tell my colleagues that they are, in 

many ways, the classic American immigrant group, in that they came here 

freeing persecution. When they came here, they built synagogues on 

Ocean Parkway, they built yeshivas, they started businesses. Some of 

the clothing that we wear today was made by members of the Syrian 

Jewish community who have become such leaders in the apparel 

profession, among others. And they have, all that time, been tourists. 

Under the law, they have been tourists. They have been the longest 

present tourists in the history of the United States, arguably. They 

are the only tourist visas that the INS could tell me they have ever 

issued that had no end date.

  What we are saying is, their days as tourists are over. They are no 

longer visiting the United States. We have always known them to be 

American citizens at heart, and now they are American citizens on paper 

as well.

  I too am deeply gratified that we are reaching this point. We are 

hopeful that the other body will act quickly on this. I have received 

assurances that the President will sign this bill and, hopefully, the 

next cheers we will hear are not for the freedom of those persecuted 

Syrian Jews, but the citizenship of those formerly persecuted American 

Syrian Jews.

  Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back 

the balance of my time.

  Mr. LAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

  Let me finally thank the distinguished chairman of the Committee on 

the Judiciary, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde), for allowing 

this bill to come to the floor with this expedited procedure and for 

lending a willing ear, frankly, to our efforts to see that justice is 

done. Thanks also to the subcommittee chairman, the gentleman from 

Texas (Mr. Smith), for his outstanding assistance in this matter.

  And let us not forget the fine staff of the Subcommittee on 

Immigration and Claims, and of the full committee, Jim Wilon in 

particular, for their excellent assistance. All these people have come 

together for a common reason, to make sure that we have an opportunity 

here in the House to express our desire to integrate Syrian Jews into 

American society and to achieve a measure of justice.

  With that, Mr. Speaker, I would ask for the passage of this bill.

  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of 

H.R. 4681, a bill to provide for the adjustment of status of certain 

Syrian nationals.

  When Syria gained its independence from France in 1944, it engaged in 

acts of persecution against its small Jewish population. This involved 

such things as a prohibition against Jewish emigration to Palestine; a 

restriction on the teaching of Hebrew; and boycotts against Jewish 

businesses.

  Jews who have left the country have been forced to post an onerous 

monetary deposit, and have had to leave family members behind so as to 

assure their return. Also, the Syrian secret police have harassed them. 

This has included a 24-hour-a-day surveillance of the Jewish quarter in 

Damascus and other steps to monitor the behavior of the Jews.

  When the partition of Israel was declared in 1947, mobs in Aleppo 

attacked the Syrian Jewish community destroying more than 200 homes, 

killing many Jews, and torching synagogues.

  Relief finally came in the 1990's, when the Bush and later the 

Clinton Administration made arrangements for 25,000 Jews to come to the 

United States. These Syrian Jews settled in Brooklyn New York. Although 

this was a tremendous breakthrough, the Syrian government imposed an 

undesirable condition on permission to leave Syria. The Jews were 

required to enter the United States as nonimmigrant visitors and then 

to seek asylum instead of coming here as refugees.

  The asylum applications were granted, but this did not lead to 

permanent resident status in the United States for many of them. Only a 

limited number of asylees can become permanent residents of the United 

States each year. Most of the Syrian Jews therefore have been unable to 

become permanent U.S. residents. This is completely unacceptable for 

people who have suffered the way the Syrian Jews have suffered and who 

have been given refuge in our country. They should be allowed to become 

lawful permanent residents of the United States.

  H.R. 4681 would direct the Attorney General to adjust the status of 

these Syrian Jews to that of lawful permanent residents without regard 

to the numerical limitations that prevent this from happening under 

current law. This would make it possible for the Syrian Jews to finally 

make their stay in the United States a permanent one and to be able to 

participate fully in American life.

  I am happy to support this legislation, Mr. Speaker, but I do have 

some reservations, not about what we are doing here, but what we are 

not doing. There are a group of immigrants who will still be locked 

out, and who still will not have relief. I am speaking of the ``late 

amnesty'' applicants and the immigrants who are asking for parity 

relief under the NACARA law of 1997.

  In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act authorized the 

legalization of undocumented immigrants who could prove that they had 

been living in the United States since January 1, 1982.

  Unfortunately, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (``INS'') 

promulgated a rule that denied legalization to the immigrants in this 

group who had briefly left the country. INS then refused to accept 

applications from people who had violated this rule. But by the time 

the INS had agreed to modify the rule, the 12-month application period 

had ended and hundreds of thousands of people who could have 

established eligibility for legalization had been turned away.

  I have introduced a bill, H.R. 4172, the Legal Amnesty Restoration 

Act of 2000, that

 

[[Page H5748]]

 

would change the date of registry to 1986, which would give amnesty to 

any immigrant who has entered the United States before 1986. This 

legislation has the full support of the Clinton Administration.

  The purpose of the NACARA parity is to offer the same opportunity for 

permanent residence to Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and 

Haitians as was offered to Nicaraguans and Cubans in the Nicaraguan 

Adjustment and Central American Relief Act of 1997. If this amendment 

is adopted, eligible nationals of these countries would receive 

treatment equivalent to that granted to the Nicaraguans and Cubans 

under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act of 1997 

(NACARA).

  This action would allow certain nationals of Nicaragua and Cuba, and 

their qualified dependents, to have their immigtration status adjusted 

to lawful permanent residence. Eligibility for this relief requires, 

among other things, continuous physical presence in the United States 

since December 1, 1995.

  I support H.R. 4681, but I also hope that we can bring relief to 

others who are so desperately deserving of it and in dire need as well.

  Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, today we have the opportunity to provide 

relief for 2,000 Syrian Jews, who have been residing in the United 

States for almost a decade. I commend our colleague from New York, Mr. 

Lazio, for his dedication to these displaced people in bringing H.R. 

4681 to the floor, today.

  In 1992, after years of negotiations between the United States and 

Syria, President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker reached 

an agreement which allowed Syria's beleaguered Jewish population to 

seek asylum in the United States. However, as a condition of this 

accord, the Syrian Government demanded that the United States grant 

these Syrian Jews temporary non-immigrant visas that led to asylum 

status.

  The Syrian government's demand forced the U.S. to deviate from its 

standard practice in which persecuted alien minorities are granted 

refugee status that can lead to naturalization.

  As a result of this legal technicality, the Syrian Jews who sought 

refuge in the United States have encountered substantial difficulties 

in their quest for U.S. citizenship. The resulting delays have 

inhibited the ability of these Jews of Syrian origin to work in their 

chosen professions, travel freely and pursue the same quality life in 

the United States enjoyed by all Americans.

  These individuals have become dedicated members of their communities. 

I am confident that granting lawful permanent resident status to the 

Syrian Jews will be a great benefit to both their community and our 

nation.

  Accordingly, I urge all my colleagues in the House to Support H.R. 

4681.

  Mr. CROWLEY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend Representative 

Lazio, Representative Weiner, and the rest of the co-sponsors for their 

leadership on this important issue. The Syrian Jewish community 

experienced many years of persecution at the hands of the Syrian 

government. For decades, the Syrian Jewish community lived in fear of 

the secret police. They were barred from buying property, they had 

travel restrictions placed on them, and they could not work in 

government or at banks. Now, the U.S. Congress has the ability to ease 

the suffering of this community.

  In 1992, through the efforts of President Bush and the State 

Department, Hafez Al-Assad agreed to end harsh travel restrictions 

against the Jewish community of his country. However, he did not want 

them to come to America as refugees. Instead, this persecuted community 

came to the U.S. on tourist visas. Because they came on visas, they 

were effectively blocked from applying for permanent residency in the 

U.S.

  Several professions, such as the medical field, require this status 

in order to work. Like so many who come to the U.S., these people only 

wanted the opportunity to contribute to society and work in their 

chosen professions. I am glad that the U.S. Congress is finally 

correcting this unfair situation and putting these brave people on the 

road to citizenship and allowing them to realize their full potential 

as so many refugees and immigrants have before them.

  It is time that the Syrian Jews are granted full access the American 

dream. I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill.

  Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, this bill is extremely important for a 

number of reasons. Jews in Syria were persecuted and discriminated 

against for decades. Because of discrimination and oppression, it was 

important for these Jews to leave Syria, and for the United States to 

help pursue this effort.

  In general, people who are granted refugee visas to come to the U.S. 

from other nations are able to apply for permanent residence status 

after one year.

  Unfortunately, although negotiations with the U.S. did eventually 

lead President Assad to allow Syrian Jews to leave Syria pursuant to an 

April 1992 Order, he only allowed them to come to the U.S. on tourist 

visas. Subsequently, these Jews were granted asylum. However, only 

10,000 people that have been granted asylum may adjusts their status to 

permanent residents each year. In recent years, many more than 10,000 

people have sought permanent residence status.

  As a result, many Syrian Jews have been seeking permanent resident 

status for many years. Without this status, the Syrian Jewish asylees 

are unable to seek and change employment readily, obtain a medical 

license, or apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization 

process.

  The legislation before us today would require the Attorney General to 

adjust the status of the Syrian Jews who emigrated to the United States 

pursuant to Assad's 1992 Order to that of permanent resident. This 

legislation is critical to ensure that these people can come to enjoy 

the full benefits of living in the United States--free from persecution 

and discrimination.

  I urge all of my colleagues to support this important legislation.

  Mr. LAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I 

yield back the balance of my time.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Kuykendall). The question is on the 

motion offered by the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas) that the 

House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 4681, as amended.

  The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor 

thereof) the rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.

  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

 

                          ____________________

 

 

 

 


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