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[Congressional Record: September 25, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S9124-S9127]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr25se00-106]                         



 
               H-1B AND LATINO AND IMMIGRANT FAIRNESS ACT

  Mr. REID. Mr. President, on Friday I moved that we proceed to the 
Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act, and my good friend, the majority 
leader, objected to our proceeding to that bill. I was disappointed, 
and I am sorry that we are not going to be able to debate this issue, 
and hope that there will come a time before this Congress ends when we 
will be able to do so.
  Those who are watching for action on this important piece of 
legislation should understand why we are at this point; that is, why we 
are not debating the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act, but, rather, 
why we are now on H-1B only, and why tomorrow there is going to be a 
motion to invoke cloture on the underlying bill.
  I consider myself to be one of the strongest supporters for 
increasing visas for highly skilled workers. I have spent an enormous 
amount of time over the past several years working on this legislation 
in an effort to expedite its consideration. As a matter of fact, this 
legislation should have been brought forward to the Senate many months 
ago. It should have been taken up and debated under the normal process 
of considering legislation. I believe an H-1B bill would have passed 
quickly and the legislation would have already been signed into law. 
But it also would have provided other Members opportunities, as is 
their right, to offer related immigration amendments for what we all 
agree is the only immigration bill that we would consider this year as 
a freestanding bill.
  Hindsight is 20-20. The majority decided not to consider this measure 
under the traditional rules that have served the Senate for more than 
200 years. I believe, however, as I have indicated, that we will have 
time to debate the legislation about which I speak.
  I think it is unfortunate that we at this stage are going to do the 
H-1B bill, apparently, alone. I say that because we were so close to an 
agreement on this underlying legislation. The details were set--the 
minority agreed each side would have 10 amendments, an hour each. That 
was compressed to five, then four. We agreed to do that. But we were 
turned down, and today we find ourselves in this parliamentary 
situation.
  We could pass this legislation, including the amendment about which I 
speak, in a day--day and a half at the most. Instead, the majority is 
insisting on closing off all debate and preventing the consideration of 
immigration amendments.
  I believe that offering and voting on amendments is a right, not a 
privilege. H-1B was designed so trained professionals could work for a 
limited time in the United States. It has become widely popular, 
especially in an age such as this, when Microsoft, IBM and other high-
tech companies decided they needed people to fill jobs that were simply 
not being filled. Hundreds of start-up high-tech companies, in addition 
to the big ones such as Microsoft and IBM, began using this tool, H-1B, 
in an effort to recruit an army of high-tech workers for programming 
jobs. Mostly these people came from India, China, and Great Britain. We 
now have almost half a million people in this country who came as a 
result of H-1B. Individuals have filled a critical shortage of high-
tech workers in this country and, in fact, the demand still exists. 
That is why we need to raise the cap for H-1B immigration.
  But I also believe strongly that we cannot serve one of our country's 
very important interests and needs at the expense of others--in 
particular, when the stakes are people's families and their labor.
  The needs of the United States are not subject to the zero sum 
theory. We cannot afford to deal or choose or prioritize between people 
and who we will serve as their legislators. We must try to serve them 
all. That is our cause, and that is what we promised our constituents.
  This applies specifically to the other pieces of legislation that 
have been part of this discussion--in particular with the Latino and 
Immigrant Fairness Act, the piece of legislation I moved to proceed on 
last Friday. This piece of act seeks to provide permanent and legally 
defined groups of immigrants who are already here, already working, and 
already contributing to the tax base and social fabric of our country 
with a way to gain U.S. citizenship.
  This piece of legislation provides these people with a way to benefit 
from the opportunities our country affords good citizenship and hard 
work. While sectors of this economy have benefited from this extended 
period of economic growth, and with unemployment rates approaching zero 
in some parts of our country, employers in all sectors, skilled and 
semi-skilled, are finding themselves with a tremendous shortage of 
labor. These views are echoed in many quarters.
  I would like to refer, for example, to a letter sent to me by the 
Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which is a group of businesses 
and trade associations from around the country which was formed 
specifically to address the shortage of workers in this country. This 
letter, dated September 8, is addressed to me.
  I ask unanimous consent it be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the 
Record, as follows:

                                                  Essential Worker


                                        Immigration Coalition,

                                                September 8, 2000.
     Hon. Harry Reid,
     Minority Whip, U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Reid: 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 now to 
     help stabilize the current workforce.
       Update the registry date. As has been 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, curent 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.
           Sincerely,
                                                  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.

[[Page S9125]]

       Associated Builders and Contractors.
       Associated General Contractors.
       The Brickman Group, Ltd.
       Building Service contractors Associated International.
       Carlson Hotels Worldwide and Radisson.
       Carlson Restaurants 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. REID. Mr. President, this letter, among other things, states:

       The Essential Worker Immigration Coalition 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 . . . labor.

  That is why it is called the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition. 
Among other things, they want to update the registry, they want to 
restore section 254(I), and also, as part of their plea, they desire we 
pass the Central American and Haitian Parity Act.
  This coalition has many members. To mention a few: American Health 
Care Association, American Hotel & Motel Association, American 
Immigration Lawyers Association, American Road & Transportation 
Builders Association, Ingersoll-Rand, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, 
Carlson Restaurants, National Retail Federation, National Restaurant 
Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among many others.
  As you can tell, this piece of legislation has widespread support. 
This is not a feel-good piece of legislation, that is only attempts to 
bring more people into the country. It is legislation that is supported 
by business people in this country who do not have workers to do the 
work that is essential for them to conduct their business.
  Take Nevada as an example. We, of course, depend on tourism as our 
No. 1 industry. But every State in the Union does. Tourism is ranked in 
the top three; in many instances, one or two, in every state of the 
Union. Nevada is an example of why we need this, as it mirrors the 
country as a whole.
  We have to build a new school in Clark County, Las Vegas, every month 
to keep up with the growth. We have as many as 10,000 people a month 
moving into Las Vegas. We have jobs in the service industry that simply 
cannot be filled. We have one hotel that has 5,005 rooms. It takes 
people to cook the food for the guests, to make the beds, do all the 
maintenance work in this massive facility, and we are having trouble 
finding people to do this work. That is another reason why we support 
this legislation.
  This bill aims to correct flaws in current immigration policy that 
have separated families and denied individuals an opportunity to apply 
for legal immigrant status by addressing three main issues. First, it 
would address the Central American and Haitian Parity Act of 2000, 
otherwise known as NACARA. This important legislation codifies that 
Central American and Haitian immigrants be granted the same rights that 
are currently granted to Nicaraguans and Cubans coming to the United 
States. There is no reason in the world that other people who come 
under basically the same basis as Nicaraguans and Cubans should not be 
given the same privileges. Second, 245(I) reauthorizes legislation 
which would allow immigrants meeting certain criteria to remain in the 
United States with their families and loved ones, rather than being 
forced to leave the country while their status is being adjusted.
  Every one of us in the Senate have heard these heartbreaking 
examples, getting calls from our State offices where people are forced 
to go back to their country of origin when they already have a job 
here, and a quirk in the law is the only reason that they are ordered 
to go home. Section 245(I) would reauthorize legislation which would 
allow these immigrants meeting these criteria to remain in the United 
States while their status is being adjusted, rather than having them go 
home, lose their job here, leave their family here. It serves no 
purpose for the country they go to, and certainly not the country from 
which they come, the United States.
  The third main component of the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act 
incorporates legislation I introduced earlier this year in S. 2407 that 
would change the date of registry from 1972 to 1986.
  I would like to provide a little background as to why I thought it 
was necessary to introduce the Date of Registry Act of 2000. We all 
remember the massive immigration reform legislation we considered in 
1996 during the last days of the 104th Congress. Pasted into that was 
the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, an 
obscure but lethal description which stripped the Federal courts of 
jurisdiction to adjudicate legalization claims against the Immigration 
and Naturalization Service.
  First of all, let me say no one who supports this legislation 
supports illegal immigration.
  We believe people who come here should play by the rules. But some 
people are found in predicaments that need to be readjusted and need to 
be reexamined.
  That is why this legislation is so important.
  That provision I talked about was sneaked into the 1996 act, section 
377. This has caused significant hardship and denied due process and 
fundamental fairness for, not hundreds, not thousands, but hundreds of 
thousands of hard-working immigrants, including about 20,000 in the 
State of Nevada.
  With its hands tied by section 377 language, the Ninth Circuit Court 
of Appeals issued a series of rulings in which it dismissed the claims 
of class action members and revoked thousands of work permits and stays 
from deportation.
  As I said, in Nevada alone, about 20,000 people have been affected. 
These are good, hard-working people who have been in the United States 
and paid taxes for more than a decade. Suddenly they lose their jobs 
and ability to support their families.
  I can remember Bill Richardson came to the State of Nevada. He was 
then the ambassador to the United Nations. We have a large Hispanic 
population in Nevada. Over 25 percent of the kids in our six largest 
school districts in America have Latino ancestry.
  Recently I took part in an event with Secretary of Energy Richardson. 
We were going to this recreation center. It was kind of late at night. 
We were told before going there that there were a lot of demonstrators 
and we should go in the back way, not go in the front way.
  Ambassador Richardson and I decided we would go in the front way and 
walk through these people out there. There were hundreds of people 
there, none of whom were there to cause any trouble. They were there to 
tell a story, and the stories they told were very sad. These were 
people who had American children who were born in the United States and 
either a husband or wife had improper paperwork done. There were 
problems. For example, one of the attendees gave a large sum of money 
to an individual who said he could help them with their citizenship 
papers. Later he found out that they had not been properly filled out. 
They were being cheated. There were all kinds of reasons why these 
people did not meet the program that was necessary to allow them to be 
here legally. But the main problem they had was section 377 because 
they could not have a due process hearing. It was outlawed in the 1996 
act.
  There were terribly sad stories of these people who had lost their 
homes because of having no work permits. Employers were there saying: 
Why can't this man or woman work? I need them. I can't find anybody to 
replace them.
  This was one occasion I met with these people. I met with them on 
several other occasions, and I have seen firsthand the pain this cruel 
process has caused. Men and women who once knew the dignity of a 
decent, legal wage have been forced to seek work underground in an 
effort to make ends meet. Mortgages have been foreclosed

[[Page S9126]]

when families who lived in their own homes have been unable to pay 
their mortgages. They have lost their cars. Parents who had fulfilled 
dreams of sending their children to college, as they themselves had not 
been able to do, have seen those dreams turn into nightmares.
  What could have happened to create these most unfortunate 
consequences? As I said, there are lots of reasons. For example, during 
the 99th Congress, we passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 
1986, which provided a one-time opportunity for certain aliens already 
in the United States who met specific criteria to legalize that status.
  The statute established a 1-year period from May of 1987 to May of 
1988, during which the INS was directed to accept and adjudicate 
applications from persons who wished to legalize their status. However, 
in implementing the congressionally mandated legalization program, the 
INS created new criteria and a number of eligibility rules that were 
nowhere to be found in the 1986 legislation.
  In short, the INS failed to abide by a law passed by a Democratic 
Congress and signed by a Republican President, President Reagan.
  Thousands of people who were, in fact, eligible for legalization were 
told they were ineligible or were blocked from filing legalization 
applications. Thousands of applicants sued, but by the time the Supreme 
Court ruled in 1993 that the INS indeed contravened the 1986 
legislation, the 1-year period for applying for legalization had 
passed. They were in a Catch-22.
  While conceding that it had unlawfully narrowed eligibility for 
legalization, the INS was clearly dissatisfied with the Supreme Court 
decision. So the court cases dragged on, and the agency employed a 
different, much more clever approach.
  Rather than affording the people within these classes due process of 
law, the INS succeeded in slipping an obscure amendment into the 
massive 1996 Illegal Immigrant Reform and Responsibility Act which, in 
effect, as I said, stripped the Federal courts of their jurisdiction to 
hear claims based upon the 1986 legislation. That provision was section 
377 and is now, unfortunately, the law of the land.
  Changing the date of registry to 1986 would ensure that those 
immigrants who were wrongfully denied the opportunity to legalize their 
status would finally be afforded that which they deserved 13 years ago.
  It is of interest to note that it was also during 1986 that the 
Congress last changed the date of registry. The date of registry exists 
as a matter of public policy, with the recognition that immigrants who 
have remained in the country continuously for an extended period of 
time--and in some cases as many as 30 years--are highly unlikely to 
leave, and that is an understatement.
  Today we must accept the reality that many of the people living in 
the United States are undocumented immigrants who have been here for a 
long time. Consequently, they do pay some taxes, but they could be 
paying more. They pay sales tax, and many times they do not pay income 
taxes. As a result, the businesses that employ these undocumented 
persons do not pay their fair share of taxes.
  These are the facts, and coupled with the knowledge that we cannot 
simply solve this problem by wishing it away, this is the reality we 
must face when considering our immigration policies today and tomorrow.
  We last changed the date of registry in 1986 with the passage of the 
Immigration Reform and Control Act which changed the date from January 
1, 1972. In doing that, the 99th Congress employed the same rationale I 
have outlined above in support of a registry date change.
  Furthermore, my date of registry legislation included in this bill is 
critical in another aspect. It establishes an appropriate 15-year 
differential between the date of enactment and the updated date of 
registry.
  This measure builds upon the 15-year differential standard 
established in the 1986 reform legislation by implementing a ``rolling 
registry'' date which would sunset in 5 years without congressional 
reauthorization. In other words, on January 1, 2002, the date of 
registry would automatically change to January 1, 1987, thereby 
maintaining the 15-year differential. The date of registry would 
continue to change on a rolling basis through January 1, 2006, when the 
date of registry would be January 1, 1991. Limiting this automatic 
change to 5 years would allow the Congress to examine both the positive 
and negative effects of a rolling date of registry and make an informed 
decision on reauthorization.

  I should note again that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 
1986, which last changed the date of registry, was passed by a 
Democratic Congress and a Republican President. I mention these facts 
to highlight my hope that support for this legislation will be 
bipartisan and based upon our desire to ensure fundamental fairness as 
a matter of public policy in our country.
  We hear many of our friends on the other side of the aisle, 
particularly the Republican candidate for President, talking about how 
the priorities of the Latino community are his priorities. I can tell 
everyone within the sound of my voice that I have met with many members 
of the Latino community, and whether it is members of the Hispanic 
caucus in the Congress or community activists in Nevada or other parts 
of the country, I am consistently reminded that the provisions 
contained in the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act are of their highest 
priority.
  Vice President Gore recognizes this fact and believes he is truly in 
touch with the concerns and needs of the Latino community by supporting 
this legislation. If Governor Bush were really serious about the 
priorities of the Latino community, he would follow Vice President 
Gore's lead and demand that Congress take up and pass this act today.
  This bill would solve the problems of many who have lived in this 
country for many years but have been wrongly denied the opportunity to 
legalize their status. This bill would solve the problem of workers who 
have been paying taxes, who have feared having their work permits 
stripped, or worse, being deported and separated from their families.
  Consider for a moment U.S. citizens of Latino ancestry--past 
immigrants--who have made significant contributions to American society 
and culture in every sphere, as have other immigrants from other parts 
of the world. I am very proud of the fact my father-in-law immigrated 
to this country from Russia. We are a nation of immigrants. My 
grandmother came from England.
  Throughout our short history as a nation, immigrants have fueled the 
engine of our economy, and Latino immigrants are no different. Latino 
purchasing power has grown 43 percent since 1995, reaching over $400 
billion this year. Because Latinos create jobs, the number of Latino-
owned firms grew by over 76 percent between 1987 and 1992, and will 
employ over 1.5 million people by next year.
  Latinos care about the United States and are willing to fight for it 
too. Americans of Latino ancestry have fought for the United States in 
every war beginning with the American Revolution. Currently, 
approximately 80,000 Latino men and women are on active duty, and over 
1 million Latinos are veterans of foreign wars.
  Finally, Latinos participate in the American democracy. Of registered 
voters, Latinos have a higher voter turnout than the population as a 
whole. Latinos, both established and those new to our hometowns, 
contribute greatly to the United States. What better time to reconsider 
our Latino immigration policy and make it more practical and more fair 
than this month as we celebrate Latino Heritage Month.
  America has always drawn strength from the extraordinary diversity of 
its people, and Latino Heritage Month presents an opportunity to 
commemorate the history, achievements, and contributions of Americans 
of Latino ancestry, as well as think to the future.
  Immigrants' love for this country is predicated by the recognition of 
firsthand knowledge of how special this country is and how privileged 
they are and we are to live here. I believe Latinos will continue to 
make important contributions to America's future, but in order for 
Latinos to continue helping America, America must help them with this 
legislation.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a letter from the 
National Restaurant Association be printed in the Record.

[[Page S9127]]

  There being no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the 
Record, as follows:

                              National Restaurant Association,

                                     Washington, DC, May 11, 2000.
     Hon. Harry Reid,
     U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Reid: On behalf of the National Restaurant 
     Association and the 815,000 restaurants nationwide, we want 
     to thank you for introducing S. 2407, the Date of Registry 
     Act of 2000, and urge the prompt passage of this legislation.
       The restaurant industry is the nation's largest private 
     sector employer, providing more than 11 million jobs across 
     the nation. Restaurants have long played an integral role in 
     this country's workforce. Not only does the restaurant 
     industry provide a first step into the workforce for 
     thousands of new workers, for many of them it provides a 
     career. In face, 90 percent of all restaurant managers and 
     owners got their start in entry-level positions within the 
     industry. Throughout the next century, restaurants will 
     continue to be the industry of opportunity. However, there 
     will be many challenges for the restaurant industry in the 
     face of a growing global economy and a tightening labor 
     market. Addressing the labor shortage is of critical concern.
       The restaurant industry is the proud employer of many 
     immigrants and has long supported immigration reforms that 
     unite families and help stabilize the current U.S. workforce. 
     While S. 2407 does not address our key concerns about labor 
     shortages, we believe it will help stabilize the current 
     workforce. Nearly 15 years ago, Congress enacted a 
     legalization program that the INS, through action and 
     regulation, wrongly prohibited many qualified immigrants from 
     using. Furthermore, in 1996 Congress stripped federal courts 
     of their ability to hear those immigrants' cases. S. 2407 
     would address the problems created by these circumstances. 
     The National Restaurant Association strongly supports passage 
     of S. 2407.
       We look forward to working with you long-term to address 
     the labor shortage issue and to passing S. 2407 this year. 
     Thank you for your efforts to reform immigration laws.
           Sincerely,
     Steven C. Anderson,
       President and Chief Executive Officer.
     Lee Culpepper,
       Senior Vice President, Government Affairs and Public 
     Policy.

  Mr. REID. 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.
  Mr. GRAHAM. 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. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 
15 minutes as in morning business.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


                        





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