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[Congressional Record: September 20, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S8800-S8804]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []


  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 
correct it.
  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 
every rule.
  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

[[Page S8801]]

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 

                               Exhibit 1

                                             EWIC Essential Worker

                                        Immigration Coalition,

                                Washington, DC, September 8, 2000.
     U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       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 
     here permanently.
        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.

             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 
S. 2045.
  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, 
could this

[[Page S8802]]

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 
economic hardship.
  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 
fairness act.
  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

[[Page S8803]]

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 
economic growth.
  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 
and respect.
  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 
computer technicians.
  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

[[Page S8804]]

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.