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[Congressional Record: October 2, 2000 (Senate)]
[Page S9600-S9601]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []


  Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, last week, the Senate majority blocked 
efforts to bring the Latino Immigration Fairness Act to the floor. This 
bill embodies the essence of America: providing safe haven to the 
persecuted and down trodden, supporting equal opportunity for the 
disadvantaged, and promoting family values to our country's residents.
  Many of my Senate colleagues perceive this provision to be a 
necessary addition to the H-1B Visa bill, which extends temporary 
residence to 195,000 foreign workers each year for the next two years. 
The Latino Immigration Fairness Act legitimates certain workers who 
have been living in the U.S. for over five years, and are ready, 
willing, and able to permanently contribute to our workforce and 
  Unfortunately, the Majority's leadership has used parliamentary 
procedures to block this bill from coming to the floor. I am 
disappointed that too few Republican leaders support this meaningful 
legislation becoming law. I am convinced that the Latino Immigration 
Fairness bill has been proposed in the best interests of our country 
and in accordance with our obligations to promoting democracy and 
freedom in our hemisphere.
  My support for this legislation is based on four fundamental reasons: 
First, this bill would provide Central American immigrants previously 
excluded under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act, NACARA, 
the opportunity to legalize their status; it would allow immigrants 
applying for permanent residency to remain in the U.S. with their 
families instead of forcing them to return to their country of origin 
to apply (a process that can take months to years to complete); and it 
would change the registry cut-off date to 1986, which would resolve the 
14-year bureaucratic limbo that has denied amnesty to qualified 
immigrants who sought to adjust their status under the 1986 Immigration 
Reform and Control Act. Finally, this bill would resolve the status of 
so many valuable members of American society. There are an estimated 6 
million immigrants in the United States who are not yet citizens. A 
majority of these immigrants have been here for many years and are 
working hard, paying taxes, buying homes, opening businesses and 
raising families.
  For years, U.S. immigration policy has provided refuge to tens of 
thousands of these Nicaraguans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, 
Hondurans, and Haitians fleeing civil war and social unrest in their 
own countries. In 1997 the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American 
Relief Act was signed into law. This statute protects Cuban and 
Nicaraguan nationals from deportation from the United States. Those 
residents who have been in the U.S. since December 1995 can now adjust 
to permanent resident status. But Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, 
and Haitians are still not as fully protected.
  In the last decade, Louisiana has provided refuge to thousands of 
Hondurans seeking relief from natural and human disasters. Displaced by 
storms, floods, war, and social unrest, many of these people have found 
warm and comforting homes for their families in the American Bayou.
  My State, particularly in New Orleans, boasts a proud tradition of 
cultural diversity. The Honduran community was originally brought to 
Louisiana through a thriving banana trade between the Port of Louisiana 
and Gulf of Honduras in the early twentieth century. As the community 
grew, Louisiana's Honduran population became the largest outside of 
Honduras. For this reason, Louisiana seemed the most logical 
destination for Hondurans fleeing instability during the 1980s and 
1990s. Once again, my state, like many others, opened her doors to our 
desperate Central American brothers.
  The Latino Immigration Fairness Act will help fulfill a promise this 
government has made to these refugees, and attempt to finish the work 
of Presidents Reagan and Clinton. Under the Reagan Administration, the 
Immigration and Naturalization Service set up special asylum programs 
for these people to reside legally in the U.S.

  Since then, they have greatly contributed to American society--
raising children, paying taxes, and establishing successful businesses 
throughout our country--as well as contributed direct support to their 
relatives left behind in their homelands.
  In a democracy such as ours, we must be consistent in the principles 
we uphold for our Latin neighbors seeking asylum. These people have 
fled political instability and social upheaval in their native lands.
  As the guardian of Democratic ideals and chief opponent of repression 
in the Western Hemisphere, we must ensure that these residents adjust 
their status to legal resident under the same procedure permitted for 
Cubans and Nicaraguans.
  In sum, I urge my colleagues to consider the United States' historic 
commitment to fair immigration policies. Our country has been built and 
continues to be sustained by immigrants.
  In her poem, The Colossus, Emma Lazarus named our country the 
``Mother of Exiles.'' Personified by the Statue of Liberty, the United 
States of America continues to shine her torch on refugees from 
instability and strife--We have opened our doors to people of all races 
and nationalities, and have prospered from their valuable contributions 
to labor, community, and culture.
  Now, failure to pass Fairness legislation will take away our promise 

[[Page S9601]]

freedom to so many deserving residents, and deny us the gifts they have 
imparted to our shores.
  Contrary to what our critics say, supporting this bill does not 
condone illegal entry into this country. I am proud of our historic 
value of the rule of law and territorial integrity. At the same time, I 
am equally concerned that once certain people have resided in this 
country for years and contributed to our country's prosperity, some 
would have us uproot such valuable members of our society.
  Let us not eject Honduran, Haitian, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran 
nationals, who have, for so long, woven into the American fabric, 
making American families, paying American taxes, building American 
homes and businesses, and working for American labor.
  Let us not revoke the American promise of freedom, and help deport so 
many valuable members of our society. Let us vote for passage of this 
very American legislation, the Latino Immigration Fairness Act.