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[Congressional Record: September 6, 2001 (Senate)]
[Page S9190-S9192]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []
                  SECTION 245(i) EXTENSION ACT OF 2001

  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate now 
turn to the consideration of calendar No. 73, H.R. 1885, the 245(i) 
family unification bill; that the bill be amended

[[Page S9191]]

with a substitute amendment, which is a modified text of S. 778 as 
reported by the Judiciary Committee, which I send to the desk on behalf 
of Senator Lott; that the amendment be agreed to, the bill be read a 
third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, 
and that any statements thereon be printed in the Record.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Amendment No. 1532 was agreed to, as follows:

                           amendment no. 1532

       Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 


       This Act may be cited as the ``Section 245(i) Extension Act 
     of 2001''.


       (a) In General.--Section 245(i)(1) of the Immigration and 
     Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1255(i)(1)) is amended--
       (1) in subparagraph (B)--
       (A) in clause (i), by striking ``on or before April 20, 
     2001; or'' and inserting ``on or before the earlier of April 
     30, 2002, and the date that is 120 days after the date on 
     which the Attorney General first promulgates final or interim 
     final regulations to carry out the Section 245(i) Extension 
     Act of 2001; or''; and
       (B) in clause (ii), by striking ``on or before such date; 
     and'' and inserting ``on or before the earlier date described 
     in clause (i);'';
       (2) in subparagraph (C), by adding ``and'' at the end; and
       (3) by inserting after subparagraph (C) the following:
       ``(D) who, in the case of a beneficiary of a petition for 
     classification, or an application for labor certification, 
     described in subparagraph (B) that was filed after April 30, 
     2001, demonstrates that the familial relationship existed 
     before August 15, 2001, or the application for labor 
     certification that is the basis of such petition for 
     classification was filed before August 15, 2001;''.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendments made by subsection (a) 
     shall take effect as if included in the enactment of the 
     Legal Immigration Family Equity Act (114 Stat. 2762A-345), as 
     enacted into law by section 1(a)(2) of Public Law 106-553.

  The bill (H.R. 1885), as amended, was read the third time and passed.
  Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I am so pleased tonight we were able to 
pass a measure that honors our heritage as a nation of immigrants, and 
provides American and immigrant families some relief from our outdated 
immigration laws.
  Today, immigrants who don't have the proper documentation to stay in 
the United States, but do have the legal right to become permanent 
residents because they are the spouses of US citizens can be stuck in a 
horrible catch-22 situation. If they return to their home country to 
get the immigrant visa to which they are entitled, they can be barred 
from re-entering the United States for up to 10 years.
  Take the example of a woman named Norma. Norma entered the U.S. from 
Mexico, and settled in North Carolina. She then married a U.S. citizen. 
They have been married over two years, have a child, are expecting 
another this fall, and recently bought a new home for their growing 
family. Norma and her husband are torn on what to do about her 
immigration status. As the wife of a citizen, she qualifies for an 
immigrant visa. However, if she returns to Mexico to obtain her visa, 
she would be barred from re-entering the U.S. for 10 years. Norma 
doesn't want to leave her husband, her children, or her home for 10 
years--and she shouldn't have to.
  This action allows Norma's family--and hundreds of thousands of other 
families--to stay together. S. 778, introduced by Senators Hagel and 
Kennedy, extends the period of time for eligible people to file their 
petitions for relief with the Immigration and Naturalization Service 
and the Department of Labor for one year.
  By doing that, S. 778 would provide real and immediate relief for 
hundreds of thousands of eligible immigrants.
  With 30 Republican and Democratic cosponsors, this bill enjoyed broad 
bipartisan support:
  It passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee mark up by a 
unanimous voice vote.
  To satisfy critics, Senators Hagel and Kennedy compromised by 
accepting language that immigrants applying under the new 245(i) 
extension must show that their family or employment relationship 
existed prior to the enactment of the bill.
  I have talked to the President about this issue on more than one 
occasion, and I raised it again with him this week at the White House. 
He assured me he shares my concern that we need to take action on this 
important priority.
  Since April 30th of this year, when Section 245(i) last expired, 
immigrants have been waiting in limbo.
  INS statistics show that approximately seventy-five percent of the 
immigrants who apply for 245(i) relief are the spouses and children of 
U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
  Eight out of 10 legal immigrants come to the United States to join a 
family member. What message are we sending if our policies pry families 
  President Vicente Fox's historic visit has helped to focus attention 
on the need to re-craft our immigration policies in ways that better 
reflect our core values of family unity, fundamental fairness and 
economic opportunity.
  Passing the Section 245(i) Extension Act of 2001 sends a clear 
message that we are truly committed to providing real immigration 
  The Senate has taken the first step. I hope the House will soon 
follow. Let's put this bill on President Bush's desk, and let's do it 
this week. Norma's family, and thousands of families just like hers, 
are looking to us. Let's not let them down.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, last year's Legal Immigration Family 
Equity Act extended the deadline under section 245(i) of the 
immigration laws to April 30, 2001--a window of just 4 months--to 
enable persons who are eligible for green cards to adjust their status 
in the United States, rather than have to return to their country of 
origin to do so. Clearly this new deadline has proved to be inadequate. 
The short extension created an overwhelming demand for information and 
services, and many qualified persons did not have enough time to file 
their petitions.
  To address this urgent problem, Senator Hagel and I introduced new 
legislation on April 26, a few days before the April 30 deadline. 
Congress should have acted long before now to extend the deadline, but 
all of us who support an extension are pleased that the Senate is 
finally acting on this bill. I know many of my colleagues on both sides 
of the aisle share my desire to move this bill quickly because it 
affects so many people. It is a humanitarian measure that has strong 
bipartisan support. It also has the support of the President.
  This bill will provide real and immediate relief to hundreds of 
thousands of immigrants. INS data show that approximately 75 percent of 
the immigrants who apply for this relief are the spouses and children 
of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. These are families who have 
made lasting contributions to our communities and contributed to the 
economic vitality of our nation. This bill does not propose substantial 
new relief, but only a continuation of the prior relief. Last year's 
temporary extension to April 30, 2001 was designed to benefit 
immigrants who were in the country by December 21, 2000. This bill will 
extend the deadline to provide this group of immigrants with more time 
to file their petitions.
  I know that some of my colleagues support the extension, but had 
concerns with our bill. We worked with them to develop an acceptable 
compromise. Our bill, with an amendment offered by Senator Kyl reflects 
our compromise. This compromise requires immigrants benefitting from 
the extension to show that their family or employment relationship 
existed on or before August 15, 2001. They will have until April 30, 
2002 or 4 months from the issuance of regulations to file their 
applications with the INS.
  Some critics are concerned about fraudulent marriages. But the INS, 
and not Congress, is in the best position to determine whether a case 
is fraudulent. The INS closely scrutinizes applications based on recent 
marriages. Under the current law, the INS conducts extensive interviews 
before deciding these cases, often separately questioning the couples. 
Anyone who has been married less than 2 years when their application is 
approved is required to attend a second INS interview 2 years later, in 
which INS again reviews the case to determine whether there is a bona 
fide marriage. Only after the second interview will a recently married 
immigrant receive a permanent green card.

[[Page S9192]]

  In INS determines that an individual has committed marriage fraud, 
that person is permanently barred from receiving a green card and can 
be criminally prosecuted. Many of us feel that this new restriction is 
unnecessary, and will lead to needless confusion, delay and hardship. 
But in the spirit of compromise, we accepted this amendment.
  I am pleased that we are moving this bill forward, as this 
legislation will keep immigrant families together. We cannot continue 
to delay; otherwise, the purpose of this legislation--to prevent the 
separation of immigrant families--will be defeated. This measure is of 
critical importance to Mexican President Vicente Fox, who is in 
Washington for an historic visit. Our two countries are negotiating 
important immigration policies which will profoundly affect and benefit 
our peoples and our economies. Extension of section 245(i) is an 
immediate and important first step in these negotiations.
  Finally, if we are truly to live up to our history and heritage as a 
nation of immigrants, we must also address the pressing needs of 
uniting other families separated by our current immigration laws, and 
meeting the needs of our labor market. I look forward to working with 
my colleagues to meet these great challenges, and am pleased that the 
Senate has approved this bill as a downpayment on the reforms that are 
so long overdue.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, this legislation accomplishes a goal 
supported by President Bush and a bipartisan coalition of Senators--
making it easier for people who are eligible to become legal permanent 
residents to apply for their green cards without leaving the United 
States. There could not be a more opportune time to pass this bill than 
during the visit of President Vicente Fox to our nation, and I applaud 
the Majority Leader for making passage today possible. I hope that the 
approval of this bill serves as a signal of the Congress' willingness 
to work with the Mexican Government to achieve our common goals, and to 
maintain fair immigration policies.
  I was pleased to schedule this bill for a markup as soon as I became 
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Although I would have preferred 
that the Committee report the bill as it was introduced, I am glad that 
a compromise was reached that allowed the bill to receive the 
Committee's support and make it to the floor of the Senate.
  This bill extends section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality 
Act, which expired on April 30, 2001. Section 245(i) allows foreign-
born people who are present in the United States and eligible for legal 
permanent residency to apply for that status from within the country 
instead of having to return to their nation of origin to apply. We 
reauthorized section 245(i) last year, but only for a four-month 
period. Many eligible immigrants were unable to find attorneys and 
submit applications during that brief period.
  There are at least three good reasons to extend 245(i). First, it 
allows families to stay together in the United States instead of 
forcing family members to return to their native countries to apply for 
their green cards. Second, because immigrants can also qualify to 
become legal permanent residents based on an employment relationship, 
extending 245(i) will allow businesses to retain vital employees. 
Third, because immigrants have to pay a $1000 fee to apply under 
245(i), this program raises millions of dollars for the Federal 
  Senators Kennedy and Hagel deserve great credit for their sponsorship 
of and support for this bill. I am pleased that the Senate has approved 
this bipartisan bill to keep families together, and I urge the House to 
follow the Senate's lead.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, let me briefly say that this is extremely 
important. With President Fox in the country, this sends a message to 
him that we really are trying to work toward making things easier in 
relations between the United States and Mexico. But this has wide 
application to places other than Mexico. It is important legislation. 
It is something we worked on very hard. We almost got it done toward 
the end of last year. It is now completed.
  We hope the House will expeditiously move forward on this matter. The 
chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has been involved in this, 
Representative Sensenbrenner. We are grateful for everyone's