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[Congressional Record: September 20, 2000 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT AMENDMENTS--MOTION TO PROCEED--Resumed
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the pending business.
The legislative clerk read as follows:
A bill (S. 2045) to amend the Immigration and Nationality
Act with respect to H-1B nonresidential aliens.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sessions). The Senator from Florida.
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, we are debating the motion to proceed to
the legislation that would increase the number of visas for aliens who
have certain technical skills that are deficient within the United
States; that is, the H-1B visa bill. Several of us hope this bill can
be expanded in order to deal with other pressing issues of immigration
to provide not only for those who are desirous of working in the high-
tech industry--the high-tech industry which needs their services--but
also that we can redress some of the injustices which have seeped into
our immigration law. So I am, today, rising to discuss those elements
of unfairness that we hope can be considered under the title of the
Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act.
The focus of this legislation is, as the title of the act says,
fairness. We all learned some fundamental lessons in grammar school.
One of those is what is fair and what is not fair. It is fair for a
teacher to punish two noisy schoolchildren who have broken the rules in
the classroom by keeping both of them inside during the recess period.
We may, in our own childhood, have been subjected to that kind of
sanction. But if the teacher decides to let one child go out and play
but keeps the other in, that wouldn't be fair. In other words, one of
the aspects of fairness is treating people who are in the same
circumstances in the same way.
We are here today trying to achieve that type of fairness because, in
1996, we passed an immigration law that went too far. It violated that
rule of treating people in the same circumstances in the same way.
It was also unfair because it applied retroactively. People who had
played by the rules, who were doing all the things that they thought
this society wanted them to do in order to become a part of our
society, suddenly found that all those steps were for naught, and they
were about to be subjected to deportation. Making laws retroactive is
almost always bad public policy. It is changing the rules in the middle
of the game. That is what we have done, but this is our opportunity to
A little history: Central American and Haitian immigrants came to the
United States, particularly in the 1980s, and were welcomed by
Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. They were fleeing civil wars
or violent upheavals in their repressive governments. They followed
Over the past 10 or 15 years, they set down roots. They raised
families; they bought homes, started small businesses. Then, with the
passage of the 1996 immigration bill, they suddenly became deportable.
They could be forced to return to their countries, the very countries
they fled. They were being forced to do so based on no actions of their
own but, rather, a change in the rules enacted here in Congress.
Congress was quick to recognize some of the overreaching of the 1996
immigration law because 1 year later, in 1997, and then 2 years later,
in 1998, Congress took steps to correct this injustice for some
people--mainly Nicaraguans, Cubans, and some Haitians. In 1997, with
bipartisan support, Congress passed the Nicaraguan Adjustment and
Central American Relief Act, often called NACARA.
In 1998, with bipartisan support, we passed the Haitian Refugee
Immigration Fairness Act. In 2000, with the Latino and Immigrant
Fairness Act, we can complete the process and correct injustices for
all who face similar circumstances.
One part of the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act, the part that we
refer to as ``NACARA Parity,'' would have a tremendous impact on
Central American and Haitian nationals. Many of the Central American
and Haitian beneficiaries of this legislation reside in my State of
Florida. I know them well. They are small business owners; they are
educators; they are volunteers. They are raising families who are
contributing to our State. These residents are a vibrant and crucial
part of our community. Many have made Florida their home for 15 or 20
years or more. It is patently unfair to uproot these families after
they have sunk such deep roots into our communities.
I had the honor of participating in a hearing held recently in Miami
when we originally introduced the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness
Act. At that hearing we heard some stories, stories of adults and
children; stories of people like Louisiana Micleese and Nestela
Robergeau. It deeply affected the whole audience in attendance at the
I spoke at the hearing and told the story of a Miami resident,
Alexandra Charles, who witnessed the brutal killing of her mother by
military personnel in Haiti. Alexandra couldn't come to the hearing
when I spoke on her behalf because she was working at one of the two
jobs she is holding down in order to pay her way through the Miami Dade
Community College. This young adult, who had grown up in Florida, was
in danger of being deported to what, for her, was, for all intents and
purposes, a foreign country. Congress did the right thing and passed
legislation to protect her. But we did not protect others.
There are other elements of this legislation, the Latino fairness
legislation. It is legislation which will update the registry which has
not been updated in many years. That is the registry of who is
currently in the United States, who has been living here as a law-
abiding person and can apply for some legal status in the United
States, and also a restoration of the 245(i) program, which is pro-
business, pro-family, and common sense.
I will not speak at length on those other two provisions in this
legislation because I know there are colleagues who will follow me who
desire to do so. But I want to make one point that is common to all
three components of this legislation: The ``NICARA Parity'' provision,
the registry update, and the restoration of the 245(i) program.
Many business organizations see this legislation, the three
components, not only as humanitarian and fair but one that makes
economic sense. I would like to submit for the Record a letter of
support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business
I ask unanimous consent a letter dated September 8 of this year from
the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition be printed in the Record at
the conclusion of my remarks.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
(See Exhibit 1.)
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, these immigrants are long-time employees
of small businesses and other businesses in virtually every State. They
are workers who do some of the toughest, hardest jobs in America. What
affects them affects all of us, especially the businesses and the
consumers who rely on their dedication, energy, and commitment to
achieving the American dream.
I urge all my colleagues to work with us and assure that this vital,
long overdue legislation, legislation that is in the best American
traditions of fairness and justice, becomes law and becomes law this
EWIC Essential Worker
Washington, DC, September 8, 2000.
Dear Senator: The Essential Worker Immigration Coalition
(EWIC) is a coalition of businesses, trade associations, and
other organizations from across the industry spectrum
concerned with the shortage of both semi-skilled and
unskilled (``essential worker'') labor.
While all sectors of the economy have benefited from the
extended period of economic growth, one significant
impediment to continued growth is the shortage of essential
workers. With unemployment rates in some areas approaching
zero and despite continuing vigorous and successful welfare-
to-work, school-to-work, and other recruitment efforts, some
businesses are now finding themselves with no applicants of
any kind for numerous job openings. There simply are not
enough workers in the U.S. to meet the demand of our strong
economy, and we must recognize that foreign workers are part
of the answer.
Furthermore, in this tight labor market, it can be
devastating when a business loses employees because they are
found to be in the U.S. illegally. Many of these workers have
been in this country for years: paying taxes and building
lives. EWIC supports measures that will allow them to remain
productive members of our society.
We believe there are several steps Congress can take not to
help stabilize the current workforce:
Update the registry date. As has done in the past,
the registry date should be moved forward, this time from
1972 to 1986. This would allow undocumented immigrants who
have lived and worked in the U.S. for many years to remain
Restore Section 245(i). A provision of immigration
law, Section 245(i), allowed eligible people living here to
pay a $1,000 fee and adjust their status in this country.
Since Section 245(i) was grandfathered in 1998, INS backlogs
have skyrocketed, families have been separated, businesses
have lost valuable employees, and eligible people must leave
the country (often for years) in order to adjust.
Pass the Central American and Haitian Adjustment
Act. Refugees from certain Central American and Caribbean
countries currently are eligible to become permanent
residents. However, current law does not help others in
similar circumstances. Congress needs to act to ensure that
refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras have
the same opportunity to become permanent residents.
We are also enclosing our reform agenda which includes our
number one priority: allowing employers facing worker
shortages greater access to the global labor market. EWIC's
members employ many immigrants and support immigration
reforms that unite families and help stabilize the current
U.S. workforce. We look forward to working with you to pass
all of these important measures.
Essential Worker Immigration Coalition Members
American Health Care Association, American Hotel & Motel
Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association,
American Meat Institute, American Road & Transportation
Builders Association, American Nursery & Landscape
Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated
General Contractors, The Brickman Group, Ltd., Building
Service Contractors Association International, Carlson Hotels
Worldwide and Radisson, Carlson Hotels Worldwide and TGI
Friday's, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Harborside
Healthcare Corporation, Ingersoll-Rand.
International Association of Amusement Parks and
Attractions, International Mass Retail Association,
Manufactured Housing Institute, Nath Companies, National
Association for Home Care, National Association of Chain Drug
Stores, National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds,
National Council of Chain Restaurants, National Retail
Federation, National Restaurant Association, National Roofing
Contractors Association, National Tooling & Machining
Association, National School Transportation Association,
Outdoor Amusement Business Association, Resort Recreation &
Tourism Management, US Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, what is the pending business?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The pending question is a motion to proceed on
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I would like to address that subject, and
I will probably speak for about 20 minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has that right. The Senator from
California is recognized.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, we have a very important issue facing us
in California. In fact, we have two very important issues facing us in
California that are intertwined into this particular discussion on
immigration policy. One of them deals with the real shortage of high-
tech labor that we face in California and elsewhere in the country,
where we are finding that the high-tech industry cannot find enough
good, qualified people with the proper skills, experience, and training
to fill the high-tech jobs that are really fueling our economic
recovery and our economic prosperity, not only in California but in
many other States.
This is a real problem. At first, when I heard about it, I thought,
be true? Could it be true that we do not have these workers? Since I
have asked that question, and a number of others did also, there have
been some studies showing that it is the case; that we do have a
shortage of these workers. If we don't make accommodations for people
to come into this country who have these skills, we will simply not be
able to function as an economy.
The second problem we face in California--and perhaps in other
States, I am sure--is the question of fairness in our immigration law.
Fairness really needs to be a hallmark of what we do when it comes to
immigration. We should not treat people from one country who face real
problems differently from people from another country who face similar
problems. Yet we have that with respect to our Latin American policy.
So we really need to have a situation where we have a Latino fairness
act, while we are, in fact, taking care of the labor shortages for our
business friends. These things are interrelated in many ways. I hope we
will be able to take them up together and pass them together; or if we
can't do it that way, I hope that we have an agreement between both
sides of the aisle, and with the President, that we will make sure both
of these problems are addressed and are addressed in a good and careful
Let me talk about the Latino fairness question. Basically, what we
are asking for is parity for all Americans so immigrants from El
Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti have the same chance and go
through the same process for permanent status or asylum as those from
Nicaragua and Cuba. It is very simple. Why should we say to immigrants
from one Latin American country that they would have a different
standard when, in fact, there has been great suffering in all of these
It may take place in different ways, but the bottom line is that
there are many people from these countries who had to leave these
countries because of fear of harm to themselves, their families; and
those people were in these countries I mentioned.
We have heard about death squads. We have heard about horrible things
happening to people and people disappearing in the middle of the night.
In fact, the families in Guatemala have been shattered by this kind of
thing, and a group of mothers got together and brought this issue to
the world's attention. So there has been suffering. We remember the
suffering from El Salvador with the right-wing death squads operating
there, and we know the horror stories from Haiti and the other
countries that are clamoring for some kind of fairness.
So if you lived in Nicaragua and you were hurt there by the Communist
regime, or if you lived in Cuba and you were hurt there by the
Communist regime, we want to open our arms to you. Why wouldn't we want
to open our arms to you if you were hurt by a right-wing regime? We
should not be playing politics at all. We should say that people who
are persecuted by government--whether the bullet came from the right,
left, or the middle, it doesn't matter; it is still a bullet. We should
be fair to all of those people.
We want to update the registry so that undocumented aliens in the
U.S. before 1986 can get a chance to remain permanently. The current
cutoff date is 1972. Historically, we have gone back and changed those
dates. It is time to do that.
We want to restore section 245(i), which allows those eligible for
permanent resident status, who are in the U.S. already, to remain here
while the process is being completed.
I want to tell you a real story about why this is so important. Jaime
came to the U.S. from Mexico, and is now married to Michelle, a U.S.
citizen. The couple has two daughters, both U.S. citizens. As a
citizen, Michelle petitioned for an immigrant visa for her husband.
When it came time to complete the visa application process, Jaime and
his wife went to the consular offices in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, for the
interview. He was unaware that if he left the United States he would be
barred from entering for 10 years. Michelle returned but has since lost
her job and is struggling financially to support her children. Jaime is
making very little money in Mexico--not enough to support his family in
the U.S. Michelle finds every day a struggle to survive without her
husband. The separation has caused great emotional anguish, as well as
I think all of us on both sides of the aisle care about families and
care about family unification. We know how important it is that
children have a mother and a dad at home, if it is possible. So here we
have a policy where this gentleman who came here a long time ago, was
working and supporting his family, made a mistake and left the country;
now he finds out he can't come back for 10 years. We need to fix this
So while we are helping our friends in the high-tech industry get
workers and allow those workers to come into this country, to immigrate
into this country, it seems to me that we ought to address this Latino
As I said before, I was a little dubious when I heard of these
shortages in the high-tech companies I represent. So I was very pleased
when there was a study because the study showed that in fact they were
telling us the absolute truth; they are short a lot of people.
In January 2000, unemployment hit its lowest level in 30 years. What
a great economic story we have to tell. It is important to all of our
sectors that are desperate for properly qualified employees.
We thought we would never see this day, even as recently as 1992,
which seems like yesterday. That is when I won election to the Senate.
The people in my State were suffering double-digit unemployment. We are
very happy to stand here today and say that because of the Clinton-Gore
policy that made it through, we have seen the greatest economic
recovery in history, with the biggest surplus we have seen, having
created 22 million new jobs.
So we have a problem, and our problem is an enviable one to the
entire world. We really need to have more help in our high-tech
That is why this bill that is pending before us is so important. That
is why I support it so strongly.
We see that an independent study group found a shortage of 400,000
programmers, systems analysts, and computer scientists.
We know we have a real problem. We also know we are not doing enough
in this country to educate our kids.
That is why I am so excited at the idea of a huge commitment to
education, the kind Vice President Gore talked about--he said the
biggest since the GI bill. That is what we need so we don't have to
import these workers.
The number of bachelor's degrees awarded in computer science has
declined 43 percent between 1986 and 1996. The number of bachelor's
degrees awarded in engineering declined 19 percent between 1986 and
We are not turning out the graduates for the computer science and
engineering skills that we need.
We need to really move on this matter; it breaks my heart to say
these high-paying jobs are not going to American workers.
Some of the good things in this H-1B visa bill deal with retraining.
A lot of the funds will come from the fees the companies will pay. They
have to pay a fee when they bring a worker in to do important things--
workforce training; math and science engineering; technology;
postsecondary scholarships for low-income and disadvantaged students;
to the National Science Foundation for matching or direct grants to
support private company partnerships; to assist schools in initiating,
improving, or expanding math and science; and information technology
curricula through a variety of methods. We have some funds to help our
Department of Labor enforce and process these workers, and for the
Immigration and Naturalization Service.
I compliment the committee for its work. I particularly thank Senator
Kennedy who did a very good job of working with the high-tech
community. They are very supportive of seeing that these fees go to
this education and job training. It is so important. It isn't enough.
We need a bigger commitment to education. That is clear.
When I talk about education, I always quote a wonderful man who was
the President in the 1950s, Dwight David Eisenhower. Ike said in those
years that in order for us to be strong, it took more than just a
strong military. He said you could have more guns than any other
country. You could
have more missiles, more ships, and more people in uniform. But if you
didn't have an educated workforce, if education wasn't front and
center, it would mean nothing; we would be weak.
He was the first President in modern times to say there is a role for
the Federal Government in education. He signed the National Defense
Education Act in order to stimulate teachers to go into math and
science, and so on.
If he were here today, I think he would be saying to us: You didn't
do enough in education. You have done great on the military; we are the
most powerful Nation in the world, but we had better make sure our
people can run these very complicated military machines, let alone
anything to do with the civilian sector.
My view is that we have a great opportunity with this bill. It is
important that we give the high-tech community the workers they need so
they will stay in this country, and so they will continue to fuel this
It is also important that at the same time we are allowing so many
thousands of farm workers into the country to help us--and we are very
happy and willing to do that--that we look at our immigration policy
toward people who have been here for many years--the Latino community--
and pass the Latino fairness act.
I think if we did both of those things we would feel very good about
the Senate because it would be fairness all the way around.
I appreciate having this opportunity to speak on this today. I know
from the Silicon Valley and other areas of my State--Los Angeles, San
Diego, and even now in the Central Valley where there is more and more
growth in the high-tech computer industries--that we need this visa
I also can tell you from my Latino community that they expect to be
treated fairly. They are not asking for the world. They want their
families to be reunited. They want fairness and equity for all Central
Again, if there was persecution in one country and we opened our arms
to those good people, we should open our arms to the others from the
other countries who have been left out.
Again, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti have been
struggling. They need our help.
I think this is an opportunity to help our business community and to
help our immigrants who are really making our country so strong and, in
my opinion, doing the work that needs to be done every day. We couldn't
find harder workers than they. They ought to be treated with dignity
While we are at it, we ought to raise the minimum wage. I hope we can
take that up in the near future. I don't know if you can calculate what
you would make if you earned a minimum wage. It is hard to survive. It
is practically impossible to survive.
I hope we can do these things for our workers, for our businesses,
for our immigrants, and move this country forward so the American dream
is there for all of our people.
Thank you very much. Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maine is recognized.
Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senator
from Wisconsin and I be allowed to proceed as if in morning business
for a period of not to exceed 25 minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Ms. COLLINS. Thank you, Mr. President.
(The remarks of Ms. Collins and Mr. Feingold are located in today's
Record under ``Morning Business.'')
Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I yield the floor and suggest the
absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, the Senate has been considering an
important measure to increase the number of visas available for high-
technology workers from other countries to come to the United States. I
urge my colleagues to lend their support to that measure but also to an
equally important measure, not only for providing a workforce in
America but for keeping true to our fundamental sense of American
fairness. The bill to which I refer is the Latino and Immigrant
Fairness Act. I am honored to be a cosponsor of one of the three major
elements of that act.
The United States is known throughout the world for the splendid
vision that guides the actions we take as a nation. America is first
and foremost a country that cherishes equality, a land where all people
are equal under the eyes of the law, a land of liberty and justice for
This vision of America is a constant challenge to those of us in the
Senate who are privileged to be working for the American people,
working to make it concrete and real in everyday life. It is a hard
task, indeed, to ensure equality of opportunity for all people, harder
still to provide equal justice. Perhaps most difficult of all is the
challenge of ensuring that equality of opportunity, of liberty, and of
justice are available to the poorest, the most underrepresented, the
most disenfranchised segments of American society.
There is an area of public policy where our efforts at achieving this
American ideal have not always been successful, an area where
counterproductive laws and cumbersome bureaucracies have dealt a series
of unfair blows against people least able to defend themselves, an area
where inequality in the eyes of the law is too often the rule rather
than the exception. I am speaking of the plight of our immigrant
Let me confess at the outset that I come to this subject with some
prejudice. My mother was an immigrant to this country. In my office in
the Senate above my desk is my mother's naturalization certificate. I
keep it there as a reminder that the son of an immigrant to this
country can one day be a U.S. Senator, representing a State as great as
the State of Illinois.
My story isn't unique. There are stories such as mine all over
America--of people who came here as immigrants, their sons and
daughters, looking for the American dream and finding it. Given that
opportunity to participate in this great society, to work hard, to try
to achieve their very best, they did. Because of that, we are a great
The current state of affairs is shocking when it comes to the
arbitrary treatment of immigrants coming to our country. Almost at
random, Federal authorities deem some immigrants to be legally here
while others in identical situations are denied any legal protection.
In a nation that treasures and respects ``family values'', immigrant
families are being torn apart under the capricious application of our
current laws. Husbands must leave their wives, parents are separated
from their children, brothers and sisters told they may never be able
to see one another again, all in the name of an immigration policy that
treats Nicaraguans differently from Salvadorans, children differently
from adolescents, and skilled carpenters differently from skilled
The simple, inescapable fact is that our current immigration laws are
unfair. They create a highly unworkable patchwork approach to the
status of immigrants, one that assaults our sense of fair play.
Immigrants from Nicaragua and Cuba who have lived here since 1995 can
obtain green card status in the U.S. through a sensible,
straightforward process. Guatemalans, Salvadorans and East Europeans
are covered by a different, more stringent and more cumbersome set of
procedures. A select group of Haitian immigrants are classified under
another restrictive status. Hondurans by yet another.
Here are some examples:
As if this helter-skelter approach isn't bad enough, existing
policies also treat family members of immigrants--spouses and
children--differently depending on where they live, and under which
provision of which law they are covered. Consider the case of young
Gheycell, who came to the U.S. when she was 12 years old with her
father and sister. The family was fleeing from war-torn Guatemala;
fleeing the carnage, brutality and utter chaos that ravaged their poor
country. They applied for asylum here in the United States, and
received work permits as their case was decided. Nine years
later, the case is still pending. Gheycell's father and sister have
been told they will get their green cards, but Gheycell, now 21 years
old, is no longer a minor child, and has thereby lost her legal status.
Although she has grown up in the United States, although she has become
an active and integrated member of her community, although she has
attended college here and wants to further pursue her education and her
career and, most of all, although she desperately wants to stay
together with her family, the vagaries of our current system have
plunged this young lady into a status as an undocumented alien.
Or consider the plight of Maria Orellana, a war refugee from El
Salvador, who fled the country when soldiers killed two members of her
family. She has lived the past ten years in the United States.
Recently, the INS ordered her deported even though she is eight months
pregnant and even though her husband--himself an immigrant--has legal
status here and expects to soon be sworn in as a U.S. citizen. When a
newspaper reporter asked the INS to comment on Maria's case, the reply
was: ``I don't know why Congress wrote it differently for people of
different countries. We're not in a position to change a law given to
us by Congress . . . we just enforce the law as written.''
Well, the law, in this case, was written badly, and needs to be
fixed. That fix is before us today. It is the Latino and Immigrant
Fairness Act. This bill addresses three areas of the most egregious
inequities in immigration law, offering fixes that are not only meet
the test of simple fairness, but also benefit our nation in important
The first area that the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act addresses
is NACARA parity. Currently, the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central
American Relief Act--NACARA--creates different standards for immigrants
depending on their country of origin. This patchwork approach relies on
artificial distinctions and inevitably creates inequities among
different populations of immigrants. The Latino and Immigrant Fairness
Act would eliminate these inequities by providing a level playing field
on which all immigrants with similar histories would be treated equally
under the law. The Act extends to other immigrants--whether from the
Americas or from Eastern Europe--the same opportunities that NACARA
currently provides only to Nicaraguans and Cubans.
Secondly, a provision to restore Section 245(i) of the Immigration
Act would restore a long-standing and sensible policy that was
unfortunately allowed to lapse in 1997. Section 245(i) had allowed
individuals that qualified for a green card to obtain their visa in the
U.S. if they were already in the country. Without this common-sense
provision, immigrants on the verge of getting a green card must return
to their home country to obtain their visa. However, the very act of
making such an onerous trip can put their status in jeopardy, since
other provisions of immigration law prohibit re-entry to the U.S. under
certain circumstances. Restoring the Section 245(i) mechanism to obtain
visas here in the U.S. is a good policy that will help keep families
together and keep willing workers in the U.S. labor force.
Third, and equally important, is changing the Date of Registry.
Undocumented immigrants seeking permanent residency must demonstrate
that they have lived continuously in the U.S. since the ``date of
registry'' cut-off. The Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act would update
the date of registry from 1972--almost 30 years of continuous
residency--to 1986. Many immigrants have been victimized by confusing
and inconsistent INS policies in the past fifteen years--policies that
have been overturned in numerous court decisions, but that have
nonetheless prevented many immigrants from being granted permanent
residency. Updating the date of registry to 1986 would bring long
overdue justice to the affected populations.
Correcting the inequities in current immigration policies is not only
a matter of fundamental fairness, it is good, pragmatic public policy.
The funds sent back by immigrants to their home countries are important
sources of foreign exchange, and significant stabilizing factors in
several national economies. The immigrant workforce is important to our
national economy as well. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has
frequently cited the threat to our economic well-being posed by an
increasingly tight labor pool. Well, this act would allow workers
already here to move more freely in the labor market, and provide not
just high-tech labor, but a robust pool of workers able to contribute
to all segments of the economy.
In short, the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act is an important step
for restoring a fundamental sense of fairness in our treatment of
America's immigrant population. Even in the midst of the Senate's busy
end-of-session schedule, this is a bill that should be passed into law.
It is a matter of common sense, and of good public policy but most of
all, it is a matter of simple fairness.
But--and this must be said--the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act has
had an extraordinarily difficult time seeing the light of day. My good
colleagues, Senators Kennedy and Reid and I tried to bring this bill
forward for consideration in July, before the Senate left for its
August recess. We were unsuccessful. We are trying again now, in the
limited time left for this Congressional session, and again, we have
been unsuccessful. And I must ask, for the sake of preserving families,
shouldn't this bill be voted on? For the sake of our national economy--
beset as it is by a shortage of essential workers--shouldn't this bill
be voted on? For the sake of the economies of those Latin American
countries that receive considerable sums from immigrants to the U.S.
who are able to legally live and work here, shouldn't this bill be
voted on? For the sake of our national sense of fairness, of justice,
of our very notion of right and wrong, shouldn't this bill be voted on?
The Latino Immigration and Fairness Act has unusually broad support.
President Clinton and Vice President Gore both actively support the
provisions in this bill. So does Jack Kemp. Empower America supports
this bill as pro-family and pro-market. AFL-CIO supports it as pro-
labor. Many faith-based organizations have lent their support as well,
recognizing the simple fairness that is at the heart of this
legislation. In light of this broad spectrum of bipartisan support for
the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act, it seems the only proper course
of action is to bring this bill forward in the Senate for full
consideration. Again, I have to close by asking this esteemed body:
Shouldn't this bill be voted on?
Mr. President, I reserve the balance of my time.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I applaud what the distinguished Senator
from Illinois has said. He, of course, has worked so long on both the
H-1B visas issue and the immigration issues included in the Latino and
Immigrant Fairness Act. I know of nobody who spends more time on these
issues than he does. I am proud to be here with him, and I invite him
to return to these issues as we proceed in this debate.
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