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[Congressional Record: September 26, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S9244-S9245]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr26se00-147]                         



 
                               H-1B VISAS

  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, for months, Democrats and Republicans 
have offered their unequivocal support for the H-1B high tech visa 
legislation. In addition, Democrats have tried--without Republican 
support--to offer the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act.
  Democrats have worked tirelessly to reach an agreement with the 
Republicans to bring both of these bills to the floor for a vote. In 
fact, 2 weeks ago, Democrats were prepared to debate and vote on this 
legislation as part of their high-tech visa bill, but our Republican 
colleagues were unwilling to bring this measure to the floor and take a 
vote. And last Friday, Senator Reid asked Senator Lott for consent to 
offer the Latino and Immigrant Fairness bill and the Majority Leader 
objected. No matter what Democrats have done, the Republican leadership 
has been determined to avoid this issue and prevent a vote.
  Our Republican friends tell us the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act 
is a poison pill--that it will undermine the H-1B high tech visa 
legislation currently before the Senate. But, if Republicans are truly 
supportive of the Latino legislative agenda, that cannot possibly be 
true.
  If they support the reunification of immigrant families as well as 
the immigration agenda set by the high tech community, we should be 
able to pass both bills and send them to the President's desk for 
signature.
  I have three letters from children who wrote to the President about 
the significance of the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act to families. 
I will read them quickly for the Senate.

       Dear Bill Clinton.
       My mom is a member of late amnesty.

  That is the provision under which they would have received the 
amnesty. Then the INS put out rules and regulations so they were unable 
to make the application. Then they went to court and found out later 
they had legitimate rights and interests; they should have received 
amnesty. Nonetheless, their rights were effectively eliminated by the 
1996 act. So now they are in serious risk of deportation.

       Dear Bill Clinton.
       My mom is a member of late amnesty. The Immigration wants 
     to report my mom. They don't want her here. She should have 
     permission to stay here because I was born here. Please don't 
     take her away from me and my brothers. I'll trade you my best 
     toy for my mom. Like my bike and my little collections of 
     cars. Don't take her away from me! Please.

  Signed Ernesto
  Here is another:

       Dear President Clinton,
       Please don't take my parents away from me. I love them very 
     much and my sisters too. We have been together for a lot of 
     years and I don't want to be separated now so please don't 
     separate us.

  Signed Larry.

       Hi. My name is Blanca. I'm 8 years old. I feel bad for my 
     parents. I want my parents to have their work permit back so 
     that they could work hard as they used to work to overcome 
     our lives in Los Angeles. I am willing to give you, Mr. 
     President, Bill Clinton, my favorite doll for my parents' 
     work permit.
       Thank you!
       Blanca

  These are real situations. We are talking about families who ought to 
be here as a matter of right under the 1986 immigration bill. Their 
cause has been upheld by the courts.
  The 1996 act, intentionally or not, effectively wiped out those 
rights, and those individuals are subject to deportation. The children 
of these individuals are American citizens, born in this country, but 
the parents are subject to deportation and live in fear of this.
  The 1986 act was a result of a series of studies done by the Hesburgh 
Commission, of which I was a member and so was the Senator from 
Wyoming, Mr. Simpson. There were a number of provisions in that act. 
Included in that act was an amnesty provision for people who had been 
here for some period of time, who had worked hard and were part of a 
community, trying to provide for their families. These letters are 
examples of individuals who are now at risk, and we are attempting to 
resolve their family situation. The Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act 
is a family value issue.
  I suggest, that if we are talking about families and about keeping 
families together, that this particular provision is a powerful one.
  The Chamber of Commerce and a long list of organizations including, 
the AFL-CIO, the Anti-Defamation League, Americans for Tax Reform, and 
various religious organizations, support this legislation and have 
pointed out the importance of it to the economy and the importance of 
it to keeping families together. They have been strong supporters for 
these different provisions.
  There were other amendments we hoped to offer as well. They dealt 
with the training of Americans for jobs that would otherwise be filled 
by H-1B visa applicants. The average income for these jobs is $49,000. 
These jobs require important skills. There are Americans who are ready 
and willing to work but do not have the skills to work in these 
particular areas. We wanted an opportunity to offer amendments to deal 
with this. This would not have required additional expenditures. We 
were going to have a modest fee of some $2,000 per application that 
would have created a sum of about $280 million that would have been 
used for skill training and work training programs, and it also would 
have provided assistance to the National Science Foundation in 
developing programs, particularly in outreach to women and minorities, 
who are under-represented in the IT workforce.
  There was some allocation of resources to reduce the digital divide, 
and others to expedite the consideration of these visas and make them 
more timely, which are both important. That was a rather balanced 
program. Members can argue about the size and the allocation of 
resources in those areas, but nonetheless, it appears those provisions 
are relevant to the H-1B legislation. But we were prohibited under the 
action taken to even bring up these matters.
  These issues can be resolved quickly. Under the proposal that was 
made by Senator Daschle, we would have 1 hour of debate on the issue of 
skill training, which is enormously important. I personally believe we 
have to understand that education is going to be a continuing life 
experience. And for those who are in the job market, training and 
education is going to be a life experience if they are to continue to 
get good jobs and enhance their skills.
  These are all related to the subject at hand, but we have been denied 
the opportunity to offer them. Instead, we have been virtually free of 
any serious work on the floor of the Senate since 10:15 this morning. 
Another day has passed. Under the deadline that was established by the 
two leaders, the Senate will recess at the end of next week. Meanwhile, 
another day has passed and we continue to be denied the opportunity to 
remedy a fundamental injustice. We continue to be denied the 
opportunity to bring up the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act, and the 
opportunity to debate and reach a conclusion on these matters.
  We are ending another day, but I wonder what the intention is and why 
we continue to have this circus, so to speak. Americans are wondering. 
We are in the last 2 weeks of this Congress, and we have passed two 
appropriations bills. What is happening on the floor of the U.S. 
Congress? What Americans have seen today is a long period of quorum 
calls and the denial of Members to offer amendments in a timely way to 
reach a resolution of matters of importance, such as the H-1B 
legislation and the Latino and Immigration Fairness Act.

[[Page S9245]]

  I thought when we were elected to the Senate, it was a question of 
priorities and choices. When I first came to the Senate, I heard this 
would be a great job if you didn't have to vote. I laughed when I first 
heard that. Now it is back. It is a great job if you don't have to 
vote. Now we are prohibited from voting and indicating our priorities 
on H-1B and the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act. It is unfortunate 
that this is the case.
  I am going to print in the Record a number of the letters that have 
been sent to me in support of these provisions. Some of the most moving 
ones have been from some of the religious organizations.
  I want to be notified by the Chair when I have 10 minutes remaining.
  I have a letter from the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, 
one of the very best refugee services. I have followed their work over 
a long period of time. They are first rate. Here is what they wrote:

       We understand and appreciate the needs of our country's 
     high-tech industries and universities for highly skilled 
     employees. We also feel, however, that legislation to benefit 
     the most advanced sectors of our society should be balanced 
     with relief for equally deserving immigrants who fled 
     persecution and political strife, seek to remain with close 
     family members or long worked equally hard in perhaps less 
     glamourous jobs. A comprehensive bill would be a stronger 
     bill vindicating both economic and humanitarian concerns.

  They have it just about right.
  I have another letter from the Jesuit Conference that says:

       As you aim to make our immigration policy more consonant 
     with U.S. reality, we ask you to recognize the present 
     situation of thousands of immigrants from El Salvador, 
     Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti who fled political and 
     economic turmoil in their countries years ago and are now 
     living and working in the United States without permanent 
     immigration status. Many of those immigrants have built 
     families here and have strengthened the U.S. economy by 
     providing services to the manufacturing industry with the 
     essential low-wage workers they need. Congress has already 
     acknowledged the need to ameliorate the harsh effects of the 
     1996 immigration law. In 1997, it passed the Nicaraguan 
     Adjustment and Central American Relief Act that allowed 
     Cubans and Nicaraguans to become permanent residents, but 
     gave Salvadorans and Guatemalans limited opportunities to do 
     so.
       Haitians and Hondurans were completely excluded from the 
     1997 law. In 1997, Haitians were given hope for equal 
     treatment and fairness by passage of the Haitian Relief Act, 
     but the spirit of the legislation was ultimately thwarted by 
     messy and slow lawmaking. It is time to remedy the unequal 
     treatment received by Central Americans and Caribbeans once 
     and for all.

  The list goes on with group after group representing the great face 
of this nation pointing out the moral issues involved. Evidently they 
are not of sufficient and compelling nature that we are permitted to 
get a vote in the Senate. We are denied that opportunity, even though 
there is support from a long list of groups that understand the 
economic importance of this to certain industries. But the moral 
reasons, the family reasons, the sense of justice which are underlined 
by members of the religious faith I find compelling.
  I believe deeply that by failing to act, we are denying ourselves a 
great opportunity to remedy a great injustice.

                          ____________________





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