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Dear Editor:

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to respond to the writers who disagreed with my letter of January 22nd. While I strongly disagree with their viewpoints, I appreciate the fact that they took the time to respond. Free exchange of ideas is always desirable, and you are providing an interesting forum towards this end.

I will respond to each writer in the order of the appearance of their letters in the forum:

Mr.(or Ms.) Seyes is conveniently ignoring the point of my letter, namely, that the unlawful presence bars, which are indeed punitive in nature, will not promote compliance with the immigration laws. I think we all agree on one thing - compliance with the law is the desired goal. The 3 and 10 year bars do not encourage compliance with the immigration laws because if the alien does leave the country and processes in the "legal" manner, he or she will not be allowed back in the country for many years (unless he or she obtains a very difficult and oftentimes unobtainable waiver of unlawful presence.) Does the writer think that, given this prospect, the alien will simply comply and leave the country of his or her own free will? Isn't it better to encourage compliance with the law, and thereby abolish the bars? Aliens would assuredly prefer to leave the country, and re-enter legally instead of being forced to live in an undocumented underground. After all, it is important to remember that the bars only apply to people who are already in the country and leave, and not those who are currently contemplating entering the US from abroad. Where is the deterrent effect on illegal immigration if the only people who will be effected are already illegally in the country? Perhaps, as I suspect, the writer's primary concern is not deterrence but, rather, punishment. If that is the case, then the writer should also consider the "punishment" levied on the relatives of these overstays when families are destroyed by separation.

To M. Jacobs:

I am sorry that your family has been waiting for decades to enter the United States. Unfortunately, the visa numbers for the Philippines are extremely limited due to a variety of factors, not the least of which is the large number of Filipinos admitted legally to the United States after World War II. I agree that it is unfair to have quotas based on nationality, and I do not think that certain groups should be limited in admission simply based upon their citizenship, but the abolition of the 3 and 10 year bars will have little or no effect on the delays experienced by these groups. While Section 245(i) does give an impermissible advantage to visa overstays, if the bars are removed and the illegal overstays are permitted to return to visa process without impunity, they are then placed in the same position as any other intending immigrant who must wait abroad to process. Please don't mix apples and oranges.

To Mr. Frecker:

I would agree that if you define "criminal" in the broadest terms, visa overstays are criminals who have violated the "civil" law. Immigration proceedings are civil, not criminal, unless the alien has also committed a crime in which case he is called a "criminal alien." Therefore, I do not think it fair or even correct to make a correlation between a visa overstay, and someone who has committed a narcotics related offense, to use the writer's example.

In closing, while I understand the frustration of many of the respondent's to my letter, I think that they are guilty of tunnel vision, and are unwilling to accept a compromise insofar as their primary goal is retribution against a presumed "criminal." Since I do not see visa overstays as criminals, and since MY primary goal is compliance with the legal and orderly obtention and distribution of visas, I think it far wiser to eliminate the unlawful presence bars and permit visa overstays to attempt to legalize their status.

To those who wrote, thank you for your views, with which I most vehemently, but respectfully, disagree.

Christine M. Flowers