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Dear Editor:

Apparently, the Senate was listening when AILA and others commented that the new "preexisting relationship" requirements in some versions of the Section 245(i) Extension Act were nonsensical. So what did they do? On the family-based side, nothing. On the employment-based side, they virtually eliminated eligibility. Talk about ludicrous.

Under the old requirement, the law would have benefited employers who hired undocumented aliens, but not employers who, in spite of their desire to hire, obeyed the law instead. Under the new requirement, only employers who filed for labor certifications between 3/30/01 and 8/15/01 would be eligible. Unfortunately, it made no sense for an employer to file for an undocumented alien during the window, unless they were prepared to wait 10 years for the alien to be able to return to the U.S., or were advised by a psychic consultant or Washington insider that the Senate was going to amend the 245(i) bill the way it did. If anything, the incentive brought about by the House version of the bill was to hire the alien as soon as possible, rather than file for a labor certification as soon as possible - two actions that, while not strictly mutually exclusive, are mutually unadvisable.

As a result, the only effect on the employment side is to allow properly documented people (such as H-1B and L-1 visa holders) for whom labor certifications were incidentally filed during the 4.5 month window - the only group for whom it made sense to - to fall out of status at any time before their labor certification is approved. Instead of being an act of clemency towards undocumented aliens and their would-be sponsoring employers, the bill is a license if not altogether an invitation to break the law, directed at people who never have.

It seems clear that the intention of the anti-immigration forces in Congress is simply to kill the extension on the employment-based side. Since the bill is already restricted to people who were physically present in the U.S. on December 21, 2000, the potential pool of sponsorable aliens is already well defined. Any further restrictions can only be meant to reduce the number of visas that will be granted, whether the basis for not granting them is ethically appropriate or not. The latest version of this bill is completely upside down from an ethical standpoint, and the number of employment-based immigrant visas that are likely to be granted as a result is very close to zero.

Fortunately, there is still time to point these things out. The bill still has to go to conference, and both conference members and key Senators and Representatives will have a lot of influence on the shape of the final bill, as will the President thanks to his veto power and leadership on immigration matters. Let's hope this bad joke does not become law.