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[Congressional Record: April 2, 2001 (Senate)]
[Page S3275-S3281]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr02ap01-24]                         



 
          STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

      By Mrs. FEINSTEIN.
  S. 672. A bill to amend the immigration and Nationality Act to 
provide for the continued classification of certain aliens as children 
for purposes of that Act in cases where the aliens ``age-out'' while 
awaiting immigration processing, and for other purposes, to the 
Committee on the Judiciary.
  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, today I am pleased to introduce the 
Child Status Protection Act of 2001. This legislation would protect 
children who are in danger of losing their eligibility for an 
immigration visa because of the inability of the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service INS to process their petitions or applications 
in a timely fashion.
  Children caught in the INS backlogs often face the problem of ``aging 
out'' of eligibility for family-based visas on their 21st birthday. One 
case recently brought to my attention was that of a couple who were 
lawful permanent residents. In 1993, they filed family-based petitions 
for their three children. Although the INS approved the petitions, as 
of March 2000, none of the children had become permanent residents. 
When they turned 21, the two oldest children were switched into another 
visa category because they no longer qualify as ``minor children.'' 
Now, they are in another backlog in which they have to wait another 
eight years to get a green card.
  The legislation I have introduced today would provide a child, whose 
timely filed application for a family-based, employment-based, or 
diversity visa was submitted before the child reached his or her 21st 
birthday, the opportunity to remain eligible for that visa until the 
visa becomes available. The legislation also would protect the child of 
an asylum seeker whose application was submitted prior to the child's 
21st birthday.
  In recent years, the INS has faced a dramatic increase in the number 
of immigration benefit petitions and applications filed. This combined 
with the agency's slow service, and antiquated filing and computer data 
systems, has caused millions of our constituents to endure long waits 
of three to five years before getting their cases adjudicated.
  The INS backlogs have carried a heavy price: children who are the 
beneficiaries of petitions and applications are ``aging out'' of 
eligibility for their visas, even though they were fully eligible at 
the time their applications were filed. This has occurred because some 
immigration benefits are only available to the ``child'' of a United 
States citizen or lawful permanent resident, and the Immigration and 
Nationality Act defines a ``child'' as an unmarried person under the 
age of 21.
  As a consequence, a family whose child's application for admission to 
the United States has been pending for years may be forced to leave 
that child behind either because the INS was unable to adjudicate the 
application before the child's 21st birthday, or because growing 
immigration backlogs in the immigration visa category caused the visa 
to be unavailable before the child reached his 21st birthday. As a 
result, the child loses the right to admission to the United States. 
This what is commonly known as ``aging out.''
  Situations like these leave both the family and the child in a 
difficult dilemma. Under current law, lawful permanent residents who 
are outside of the United States face a difficult choice when their 
child ``ages-out'' of eligibility for a first preference visa. 
Emigrating parents must decide to either come to the United States and 
leave their child behind, or remain in their country of origin and lose 
out on their American dream in the United States. In the end, we as a 
country stand to lose when we are deprived of their cultural gifts, 
talents and many contributions.

  For lawful permanent residents who already live in the United States, 
their dilemma is different. They must make the difficult choice of 
either sending their child who has ``aged-out'' of visa eligibility 
back to their country of origin, or have the child stay in the United 
States out-of-status, in violation of our immigration laws, and thus, 
vulnerable to deportation. No law should encourage this course of 
action.
  One compelling example is that of 17-year-old Juan, a youngster born 
in Guatemala, who applied for adjustment

[[Page S3276]]

of status under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act in 1999. 
He is a junior in high school with a 4.0 grade point average. His 
mother came to the United States in 1986, fleeing life-threatening 
conditions in Guatemala. Juan, who was six years old at the time, 
joined her four years later. Today, Juan has yet to have an interview 
with the INS. Given the expected three- to five-year wait for the INS 
to adjudicate adjustment of status applications, this high achieving 
student may not only miss out on his dream of becoming an engineer, his 
home state of California stands to lose out on the contributions he 
undoubtedly will make.
  The aging out problem also extends to those who have fled persecution 
and are granted asylum in the U.S. Current law permits persons granted 
asylum to have their child join them in the United States. However, if 
the child ages out while the parent's application for asylum is being 
adjudicated, the child is no longer automatically entitled to remain 
with his parent.
  As Members of Congress we, too, have been confronted with this issue. 
Because the Attorney General does not have the discretion to protect 
the status of these children, we often are called upon to introduce 
private bills to grant them the status they deserve. Unfortunately, 
these bills are limited in number and not all deserving children are 
able get private bills introduced on their behalf.
  The Child Status Protection Act of 2001 would correct these 
inequities and help protect a number of children who, through no fault 
of their own, face the consequence of being separated from their 
immediate family. It is a modest but urgently needed reform of our 
immigration laws, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. 
I ask unanimous consent that the text of the Child Status Protection 
Act of 2001 be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the bill was ordered to be printed in the 
Record, as follows:

                                 S. 672

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Child Status Protection 
     Act''.

     SEC. 2. CHILD STATUS PROTECTION.

       (a) Immediate Relatives.--Section 201(b)(2)(A) of the 
     Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(2)(A)) is 
     amended by adding at the end the following:
       ``(iii) Notwithstanding section 101(b)(1), an unmarried 
     alien 21 years of age or older on whose behalf a petition was 
     filed under section 204 to classify the alien as an immediate 
     relative under clause (i) shall be classified as a child of a 
     citizen of the United States for purposes of that clause, and 
     the petition shall be considered a petition for 
     classification under that clause, if the alien attained 21 
     years of age after the date on which the petition was filed 
     but while the petition is pending before the Attorney 
     General.
       ``(iv) An unmarried alien under 21 years of age on whose 
     behalf a petition was filed under section 204 to classify the 
     alien as an immigrant under section 203(a)(2)(A) shall be 
     classified as a child of a citizen of the United States for 
     purposes of clause (i), and the petition shall be considered 
     a petition for classification under that clause, if a 
     petitioning parent became a naturalized citizen of the United 
     States after the petition was filed but while the petition is 
     pending before the Attorney General..
       ``(v) An unmarried alien who was in a marriage on the date 
     a petition was filed under section 204 to classify the alien 
     as an immigrant under section 203(a)(3) shall be classified 
     as a child of a citizen of the United States for purposes of 
     clause (i), and the petition shall be considered a petition 
     for classification under the clause, if--
       ``(I) the alien's marriage was legally terminated while the 
     petition is pending before the Attorney General; and
       ``(II) the alien was under 21 years of age on the date of 
     legal termination of the marriage.''.
       (b) Family-Sponsored, Employment-Based, and Diversity 
     Immigrants.--Section 203(d) of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1153(d)) is amended to read as 
     follows:
       ``(d) Treatment of Family Members.--
       ``(1) In general.--A spouse or child (as defined in 
     subparagraph (A), (B), (C), (D), or (E) of section 101(b)(1)) 
     shall, if not otherwise entitled to immigrant status and the 
     immediate issuance of a visa under subsection (a), (b), or 
     (c), be entitled to the same status, and the same order of 
     consideration provided in the respective subsection, if 
     accompanying or following to join, the spouse or parent.
       ``(2) Continued classification of certain aliens as 
     children.--An unmarried alien 21 years of age or older on 
     whose behalf a petition was filed under section 204 to 
     classify the alien as an immigrant under subsection (a), (b), 
     or (c), who is accompanying or following to join his or her 
     parent under this section shall be classified as a child for 
     purposes of entitlement to the same immigrant status of the 
     parent, and the petition shall be considered a petition for 
     classification for such purposes, if the alien attained 21 
     years of age after the date on which the petition was filed 
     but while the petition is pending before the Attorney 
     General.''.
       (c) Asylees.--Section 208(b)(3) of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(3)) is amended--
       (1) by striking ``A spouse'' and inserting ``(A) In 
     general.--A spouse''; and
       (2) by adding at the end the following:
       ``(B) Continued classification of certain alien as children 
     for asylum eligibility.--A unmarried alien who is 
     accompanying or seeking to join a parent granted asylum under 
     this subsection, who is seeking to be granted asylum under 
     this paragraph, and who was under 21 years of age on the date 
     on which the alien's parent applied for asylum under this 
     section shall continue to be classified as a child for 
     purposes of this paragraph, if the alien attained 21 years of 
     age after the application was filed but while the application 
     is pending before the Attorney General.''.

     SEC. 3. EFFECTIVE DATE.

       Section 2, and the amendments made by section 2 shall apply 
     to--
       (1) all applications and petitions filed before the date of 
     enactment of this Act and pending on such date; and
       (2) all applications and petitions filed on or after such 
     date.
                                 ______
                                 
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