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[Congressional Record: July 27, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S7820-S7821]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I rise today to comment briefly on the 
issue of H1-B visas. Like most if not all Democrats, I believe that the 
number of H1-B visas--which are used by foreign workers wishing to work 
in the United States--should be increased.
  I also believe that we should address other immigration priorities. 
First, we should ensure that we treat all people who fled tyranny in 
Central America equally, regardless of whether the tyrannical regime 
they fled was a left-wing or a right-wing government. Congress has 
already acted to protect Nicaraguans and Cubans, as well it should. It 
is now time to apply the same protections to Guatemalans, Salvadorans, 
Hondurans, and also Haitians.
  Second, we should prevent people on the verge of gaining legal 
permanent resident status from being forced to leave their jobs and 
their families for lengthy periods in order to complete the process. 
U.S. law allowed such immigrants to remain in the country until 1997, 
when Congress failed to renew the provision. It is now time to correct 
that error.
  Third, we should allow people who have lived and worked here for 14 
years or more, contributing to the American economy, to adjust their 
immigration status. This principle has been a part of American 
immigration law since the 1920s and should be updated now for the first 
time since 1986.
  Vice President Gore shares these priorities, as reflected in a letter 
he wrote on July 26 to Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard. In this 
letter, he endorses an increase in the number of H1-B visas and each of 
the three proposals I have outlined briefly here today. The Vice 
President's position on this issue is the right position, and it is the 
compassionate position. I urge the Senate to take up S. 2912, the 
Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act--a bill that would accomplish each of 
the three immigration goals I have just discussed--and pass it without 
further delay.
  I ask unanimous consent that the letter be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the 
Record, as follows:

                                           The Vice President,

                                        Washington, July 26, 2000.
     Hon. Lucille Roybal-Allard,
     Member of Congress,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Lucille: As Congress concludes this work period, with 
     few legislative days left this session, I want to communicate 
     my continued support for legislation addressing fairness for 
     legal immigrants.
       America's economic prosperity stems in large part from the 
     hard work of American workers and the innovation offered by 
     American firms. As a result of the longest period of economic 
     growth in our history, it is not surprising that we have 
     achieved record low levels of unemployment. This positive 
     employment picture is especially true among highly skilled 
     and highly educated workers. In some sectors of the economy, 
     it appears there may be genuine shortages of highly skilled 
     workers necessary to sustain our economic growth. As a 
     result, our Administration has offered a series of proposals 
     aimed at dramatic improvements in the education and training 
     of American workers. These proposals ought to be enacted by 
     the Congress to assure that any gap between worker skills and 
     employer needs is addressed comprehensively.
       I recognize that periodically American industry requires 
     access to the international labor market to maintain and 
     enhance our global competitiveness, particularly in high-
     growth new technology industries and tight labor markets. For 
     these reasons, I support legislation to make reasonable and 
     temporary increases to the H-1B visa cap to address 
     industry's immediate need for high-skilled workers. However, 
     this increase must also include significant labor protections 
     for American workers and a significant increase in H-1B 
     application fees to fund programs to prepare American 
     workers--especially those from under-represented groups--to 
     fill these and future jobs.
       In addition, I support measures that provide fairness and 
     equity for certain immigrants already in the United States. 
     Therefore, as Congress considers allowing more foreign 
     temporary workers into this country to meet employers' needs, 
     I urge Congress to correct two injustices currently affecting 
     many immigrants already in our nation. I want to urge Members 
     to pass two important immigration proposals that have long 

[[Page S7821]]

     Administration priorities--providing parity to Central 
     Americans and Haitians under NACARA and changing the registry 
     date to allow certain long-term migrants to adjust to legal 
     permanent resident status. These proposals are much-needed 
     and would restore fairness to our immigration system and 
     American families. The registry date and the Central American 
     and Haitian Parity Act proposals would provide good people 
     who have developed ties to this country--families, homes, and 
     roots in their communities--the opportunity to adjust their 
     status. I am extremely disappointed that many in the 
     Congressional majority seem intent on refusing to pass or 
     even vote on these important immigration provisions. One way 
     or another, however, the Congressional majority has an 
     obligation to allow a vote on these issues and to join us in 
     passing these measures of basic justice and fairness. The 
     migrants and their families who would benefit from the 
     registry date proposal have been in immigration limbo for up 
     to two decades and are in desperate need of a resolution to 
     their efforts to become full members of American society. In 
     the case of Central Americans and Haitians, the parity 
     provision would not only provide compassion and fairness for 
     the affected immigrants, but also contribute to the stability 
     and development of democracy and peace in their native 
       I also urge Congress to pass and fund other Administration 
     priorities that would address the needs of immigrants. 
     Reinstatement of section 245(i) would allow families to stay 
     together while an adjustment of status application is 
     pending. The Administration's FY 2001 budget proposal would 
     fund programs to ensure that immigrants' services have the 
     resources needed to reduce the backlog of applications from 
     people seeking naturalization and adjustment of status.
       Finally, I urge Congress to fully fund the Administration's 
     $75 million request for the English Language/Civics and 
     Lifeskills Initiative that will allow communities to provide 
     more English language courses that are linked to civics and 
     lifeskills instruction to adults with limited English 
     language proficiency. Immigrants are eager to learn English 
     and all about civic responsibility, but the demand for 
     programs outweighs the supply. We need to provide 
     opportunities for these new Americans to become full 
     participants in our society.
       For these reasons, Congress should consider and enact these 
     legislative proposals and fund the programs we requested. I 
     commend your leadership in this area, and I look forward to 
     working closely with you to enact these important immigration 
     Al Gore.