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[Congressional Record: July 27, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S7744-S7747]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

                   UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--S. 2912

  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that, 
notwithstanding rule XXII, the Senate proceed to the consideration of 
S. 2912.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. In my capacity as a Senator from Illinois, I 
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I am disappointed that there has been an 
objection, but I am not surprised.
  I say to my friend from Massachusetts, who is on the floor, who has 
been a leader on these issues for 35 years--that is, in trying to 
establish some fairness in immigration policy.
  Mr. KENNEDY. If the Senator would be good enough to yield.
  Mr. REID. I am happy to yield to my friend from Massachusetts.
  Mr. KENNEDY. It is a privilege to join my colleagues in introducing 
the ``Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act of 2000.'' This important 
legislation will help re-establish fairness and balance in our 
immigration laws by making it fairer to apply for green cards, 
advancing the date for registry from 1972 to 1986, and providing equal 
treatment for Central American and Haitian immigrants.
  Our legislation will also provide fairness for immigrants from 
Central American countries and Haiti. In 1997, Congress granted 
permanent residence to Nicaraguans and Cubans who had fled from 
dictatorships in those two countries. But it excluded many other 
Central Americans and Haitians facing similar conditions. The 
legislation will eliminate this unfair disparity by extending the 
provisions of the 1997 Act to all immigrants from Central America and 
  By providing parity, we will help individuals such as Gheycell, who 
came to the United States at the age of 12 with her father and sister 
from worn-torn Guatemala. She went to school here, and became active in 
her community. In high school, she formed a club that helped the 
homeless in Los Angeles. She is now attending college. Her

[[Page S7745]]

family applied for asylum and all were given work permits. They now 
qualify for permanent residence. But because Gheycell is 21, she no 
longer qualifies, and risks being deported to Guatemala. Under our 
proposal, she will be able to remain in the United States with her 
family and continue her education.
  The legislation will also change the registry cut-off date so that 
undocumented immigrants who have been residing in this country since 
before 1986 can remain in the United States permanently. The registry 
date has periodically been updated since the 1920's to reflect the 
importance of allowing long-time, deeply-rooted immigrants who are 
contributing to this country to obtain permanent residence status and 
eventually become citizens.
  These issues are matters of simple justice. The Latino and Immigrant 
Fairness Act is strongly supported by a broad coalition of business, 
labor, religious, Latino and other immigrant organizations. 
Conservative supporters include Americans for Tax Reform and Empower 
America. Labor supporters include the AFL-CIO, the Union of 
Needletrades and Industrial Textile Employees, and the Service 
Employees International Union. Business supporters include the National 
Restaurant Association and the American Health Care Association.
  All of the major Latino organizations support the bill, including the 
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National 
Council of La Raza, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and 
the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. 
Religious organizations supporting the bill include the U.S. Catholic 
Conference, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Lutheran Immigration 
and Refugee Services. Members of these groups agree that immigrants are 
an important asset for the economy, and that by enabling them to become 
permanent residents, they will be freed from exploitation.

  This legislation will adjust the status of thousands of workers 
already in the U.S. and authorize them to work. This policy is good for 
families and good for this country. It will correct past government 
mistakes that have kept countless hard-working immigrant families in a 
bureaucratic limbo far too long. In taking these steps, Congress will 
restore fairness to our immigration laws and help sustain our economic 
  I understand, we are coming into the last day of this particular 
session of this Congress. We will have approximately 4 weeks when we 
return. But we are running into the last days.
  The Senator from Nevada was asking for consideration--since we have 
been in a quorum call, we probably do have the time to deal with these 
issues, which are not new issues--that we take the steps to try to 
provide some simple justice for many of our fellow citizens and workers 
here in the United States who have, because of the failure of action by 
Congress, or because of the particular decisions of the courts, been 
denied fairness in their treatment before the law.
  I would like to ask the Senator from Nevada if he remembers the time, 
about 3 years ago, when we saw action taken in order to permit 
permanent resident status for Nicaraguans and Cubans. And yet, at least 
at that time, there were solemn guarantees that we were going to be 
able to have similar consideration for Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, 
Haitians, the other Central Americans who have been involved in similar 
kinds of conflict.
  There was a unified position within the community that--because of 
the turmoil, because of the dangers to many of those people in 
returning to their country, dangers of retribution--that we ought to 
give them at least the opportunity for permanent resident status. A 
decision was made at that time to only do it for the Nicaraguans and 
the Cubans. But there was the promise that we were going to do it for 
the rest of the Central Americans.
  This effort by the Senator from Nevada basically says: we made the 
promise. We gave the guarantee to these individuals. This is an effort 
by the Senator from Nevada to make sure that Nicaraguans, Cubans, 
Haitians, Guatemalans, and El Salvadorans are treated fairly and 
treated the same.
  Is that one of the efforts that the good Senator is attempting to 
  Mr. REID. I respond to my friend from Massachusetts, that is true. We 
were promised. It was not a question that we would work on it. We were 
given every assurance that Haitians, Central Americans, people who 
lived under some of the most oppressive regimes in the history of their 
countries, would be granted the same privileges that the Cubans and 
Nicaraguans received. I was happy that the Cubans and Nicaraguans 
received basic fairness.
  However, I say to my friend from Massachusetts, we are not asking for 
anything that is outlandish or new. This is the way America has been 
conducting its immigration policy since the birth of our republic. Is 
that not true?
  Mr. KENNEDY. The Senator is correct. At this time, our fellow 
citizens ought to understand that if you are Guatemalan, El 
Salvadoran--someone who has been involved in the conflict in that 
region over the years and is now in the United States--you go off to 
work in the morning, and you may be married to an American wife, and 
you may have children who are Americans, and you can be picked up and 
deported, while the person who is working right next to you in the same 
shop may have been born 5 miles away but will have the protections of 
  Does that seem fair to the Senator from Nevada?
  Mr. REID. No, it does not seem fair, I say to my friend 
from Massachusetts. It does not seem any more fair than a story I will 
tell the Senator, which he has heard me tell before. It is a story that 
is embedded in my heart and which has prompted me to speak out on these 

  Secretary Richardson and I visited a community center in Las Vegas. 
We were told to go in through the backdoor because there were people 
outside who were demonstrating. I say to my friend from Massachusetts, 
we decided that we would not going through the backdoor.
  These people that were demonstrating were good American people who 
were there saying: I am married to someone from Mexico, or El Salvador, 
or Guatemala. They were saying: We have children who have been born in 
this country. They have taken my husband's work card away from him. He 
can no longer make payments on our house, our car.
  Other people I talked to, they had lost their houses, they had been 
evicted from their homes, they had lost their jobs. And those jobs are 
not that easy to fill in Las Vegas.
  I say to my friend, I believe that justice calls out for this. We 
hear terms such as ``fairness'' and ``social justice.'' Those terms are 
spoken on this floor a lot. But sometimes they are only words. To the 
people Bill Richardson and I met with in Las Vegas, however, these are 
more than words. These people, if the legislation we are trying to 
consider today was passed, would be able to have the satisfaction that 
their husbands or wives could go back to work, that their children 
would have parents who were legally employed, that they could live in 
their own home, and pay their taxes.
  So I say to my friend from Massachusetts, who, I repeat, has been a 
leader on these issues for more than 30 years, that we not only have to 
do something about NACARA, which would give parity to Central Americans 
and Haitians, but also the legislation which I have introduced which 
would change the date of registry from 1972 to 1986. We have people 
here who have kids who have graduated from high school--American 
citizens. They are deporting the fathers and mothers of these children.
  I would also say to my friend from Massachusetts that the date of 
registry has been in effect in this country for decades. Since 1929, we 
have changed the date of registry several times. I repeat, this isn't 
something we are doing that is unique or outlandish or bizarre. It is 
something that has been done for decades upon decades in this country.
  Mr. KENNEDY. The part of this proposal that the Senator was trying to 
have before the Senate is really to equalize the treatment of those in 
Central America and Haiti with those from Nicaragua and Cuba because of 
the assurances that were given.
  The Senator has talked about the registry which has been periodically 
updated since the 1920s, to reflect the importance of allowing long-

[[Page S7746]]

deeply rooted immigrants who are contributing to the country to obtain 
permanent resident status and eventually become citizens.
  Consider the case of Adriana, who came to the United States with her 
parents in 1981. In 1986, her family became eligible for legalization, 
since they had arrived here before 1982. They completed their 
applications and attempted to submit them to the INS. However, the INS 
erroneously declared them ineligible because they had briefly left the 
country in 1985. That year, Adriana and her parents had returned to 
their native land to visit her dying grandmother. They returned to the 
United States on tourist visas. In 1989, Adriana learned that the INS 
had been wrong in denying their right to apply for legalization. They 
successfully challenged the INS action, but because of changes in 1996, 
the family is still in legal limbo. Adriana's dream of becoming a 
special education teacher is on hold, and every day she lives in fear 
of deportation.
  Here is a person who, under the law, under the holdings, should be 
permitted to remain in the United States permanently but is being 
denied that because of some legal impediments. I understand that the 
Senator's proposal effectively says to those who have been adjudicated 
in courts of law, which is the basis of this legislation, that those 
courts of law holdings should be upheld legislatively here in the 
Senate. Isn't that effectively what the second provision of the 
Senator's proposal would do?
  Mr. REID. That is absolutely true. The Senator graphically painted a 
picture for us of Adriana. The sad part about that story is, it doesn't 
end with Adriana.
  I went to a little place in rural Nevada a number of years ago called 
Smith Valley, a farming community in northwestern Nevada. After I gave 
my speech to the high school students, this very attractive, very 
bright-eyed young lady said: Senator, could I speak to you alone? I 
said: Sure. And this young lady proceeded to tell me what her family 
had gone through and how she, one of the top two or three kids in her 
graduating class, now could not go to college because she couldn't get 
loans because her parents' status needed to be readjusted. The story of 
Adriana is one of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of stories of 
unfairness faced by people in this country.
  We in America pride ourselves on being fair. This is unfair. What we 
are doing to these people is un-American. These are people who are 
already American in many ways: They have spouses. They are families: a 
husband, a wife, a father, a mother who are American; many of the 
children are American citizens. In the process, somebody has been left 
out. We want to bring them in. We pride ourselves on doing everything 
we can to be family friendly. It would truly be family friendly to 
unite some of these immigrant families.
  Mr. KENNEDY. There are three major provisions in the legislation. The 
other important part of the bill is what is called 245(i), which was a 
section of the immigration bill that should not have been allowed to 
expire in 1997. It had been in effect for years. Then it was allowed to 
expire. All we are trying to do is give it some life again because it 
had been so successful prior to that time. This provision would permit 
immigrants eligible to become permanent residents to apply for green 
cards here in the United States for a $1,000 fee, instead of being 
forced to return to their native land to apply. The fee was a 
significant source of funds for INS enforcement and for the processing 
of applications. Section 245(i) is pro-family and pro-business. It 
allows immigrants with close family members in this country to remain 
here and apply for permanent residence. It enables businesses to keep 
valuable employees, and it provides INS with millions of dollars in 
additional revenues each year, at no cost to taxpayers.

  Restoring the ability to apply for green cards in this country also 
alleviates other unnecessarily harsh provisions in the law which bar 
these immigrants from returning to the United States for up to 10 
  Consider the case of Norma, who entered the United States from 
Mexico, settled in North Carolina, and married a U.S. citizen. They 
have been married for 2 years, have a child, and are expecting another 
this fall. They recently purchased a new home for their growing family. 
Norma and her husband are troubled over what to do about her 
immigration status. She can stay here and risk being deported. Or she 
can return to Mexico to apply for an immigrant visa, but she would be 
barred from re-entering the United States for 10 years. That is the 
current law, 10 years. The restoration of section 245(I) will allow 
this new family to stay together. Until then, she remains here in legal 
limbo, unable to become a permanent resident.
  Section 245(I) had been in effect for 8 years without any kind of 
abuses. I remember the hearings we had on the 1996 act. I was amazed 
when this was added. I fought it, voted against it, but it was put into 
law. The restoration of section 245(I) will allow this new family to 
stay together. Until then, she remains here in legal limbo, unable to 
become a permanent resident, and risks being deported.
  We describe it as 245(I), but this is a real family. These are real 
cases, real cases of family unity. It is something that is closely 
related to how parents are going to be able to deal with their 
  In talking about the registry, these are individuals who should be 
entitled to remain here under court order because they comply legally, 
but because there was a mix-up in the INS, they have been denied that 
opportunity. We are trying to bring justice to them, justice and 
fairness to Central Americans, and treat them equally. These don't seem 
to me to be very complex issues. These issues do not demand a great 
deal of time in order to be able to understand them or to debate them. 
These issues, it seems to me, should be very comprehensible to Members 
of the Senate.
  I understand the Senator from Nevada is attempting to say: as we come 
to the end of this session we have been unable to get these matters to 
the floor because of a range of different activities. Now, in the final 
days, as a matter of simple fairness, as a matter of family policy, as 
a matter of common sense, as a matter of continuing our commitment to 
these individuals, and as a matter of basic and fundamental justice, we 
ought to take this action. Is that the position of the Senator from 
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I don't know the case of Norma. The Senator 
has again painted a very vivid picture. I personally have been 
acquainted with case after case out of my Las Vegas and Reno offices, 
the same kind of cases. We can change the name, but they are tragic 
stories. Remember, we are not saying grant citizenship to somebody who 
is not entitled to it. We are saying, don't send them back to the 
country they go to for a silly clerical revisit. We think the law 
should be that if they are eligible for citizenship, let them apply, 
and remain in the United States with their families and loved ones.
  If we look at our own personal backgrounds, these issues become 
pretty personal. My father-in-law was born in Russia, my grandmother in 
England. People need to be treated fairly. Thank goodness my father-in-
law and his family were able to work through the bureaucratic programs 
we have here in the United States and, as a result of that, my wife is 
an American citizen.
  We are dealing with people's lives, people such as my father-in-law. 
All they wanted to do was come to America. They were oppressed in 
  Mr. KENNEDY. That is a very moving story.
  I see others who want to address the Senate. Let me ask the Senator a 
final question. Does the Senator hope the Republican leadership will 
come and either explain their objection to considering and taking 
action on these issues, or at least that the Republican leadership will 
give the Senator the assurance that we will bring this up after the 
completion of the debate on the China trade issue by, say, mid-
September? The Senator would certainly welcome that, would he not? And 
if we are not able to get those kinds of assurances, the silence by the 
Republican leadership in addressing this issue, I think, would be very 
significant indeed.
  We all know what is happening around here. I think if the leadership 
gave assurances to the Senator from

[[Page S7747]]

Nevada and most importantly, to the many families in this country 
affected by our unfair immigration laws, that we will consider this 
legislation--would the Senator not agree with me--that that would be an 
enormous step forward and magnificent progress? But if we are not able 
to get those assurances, how does the Senator interpret the silence of 
the leadership on this issue?
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I would go one step beyond what my friend 
from Massachusetts has said. I call upon Governor George W. Bush, who 
goes around the country and even speaks in Spanish once in a while, 
talking about how compassionate he is, and how important the priorities 
of the Latino community are to him. I want him to speak out and say to 
my colleagues, the Republican leadership in the Congress, let's vote on 
these issues because they are about fairness. Let's take up and pass 
these reasonable provisions. If he is really compassionate, there is no 
area that deserves more compassion than what we are trying to do in 
this legislation. Not only do I call upon the Republican leadership to 
allow us to vote on these matters, I call upon the Republican nominee 
for President of the United States to speak out publicly. Is he for or 
against what we are trying to do?
  Mr. KENNEDY. Is the Senator suggesting he'll call upon Governor Bush 
and the Republican leadership in the House and Senate and say that this 
is something that needs to be supported, that this is something that is 
a priority with 4 weeks left in this session and that he hopes very 
much that the leadership will bring this up for final action?
  Mr. REID. The Vice President of the United States has put it in 
writing that he supports this. Vice President Gore put it in writing 
that he supports the provisions of the Latino and Immigrant Fairness 
  I hope we can move forward with this legislation. There has been much 
talk about H-1B visa, and I believe that this legislation is very 
important. We live in a high-tech society. We want to move forward to 
try to meet our obligations. But let's not think we are going to lay 
over on these issues, which are issues of basic fairness, because of 
threats on the other side that we are not going to be able to do H-1B. 
Basic fairness dictates that we do both of them. And, we can if the 
Republicans would just allow us to move forward.
  Mr. KENNEDY. I agree. I think we can and we should do both of them. 
We can do them very quickly. We have had the hearings in the Judiciary 
Committee. The Judiciary Committee members understand these issues. 
They can help provide information to our colleagues if they are in 
doubt. But the compelling need for action in these areas is just 
  I hope my friend and colleague from Nevada is not going to just end 
with this challenge. I hope he will continue to work, and I certainly 
will join him, as many colleagues will, and try to get action. We are 
unable to get the action today, but we have time remaining. I want to 
say I look forward to working with him to make sure we get action one 
way or another, hopefully with the support of the Republican 
leadership. But if we are not able to have that support, I hope at 
least they will get out of the way so we can give justice to these very 
fine individuals.
  I thank the Senator.
  Mr. REID. I close by publicly expressing my appreciation to the 
Senator from Massachusetts for his clear and consistent understanding 
of what fairness is. Also, I assure him that we have just begun to 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington is recognized.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak as in 
morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.