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[Congressional Record: February 14, 2002 (Extensions)]
[Page E161]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

                           HON. BOB ETHERIDGE

                           of north carolina

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, February 13, 2002

  Mr. ETHERIDGE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform my colleagues of 
an important constituency in the Second Congressional District of North 
Carolina: the growing Latino population.
  Three years ago, I formed the Second Congressional District Latino 
Advisory Committee to reach out to North Carolina's Latino community 
and provide responsive representation to the needs and concerns of this 
rapidly expanding community. North Carolina has undergone tremendous 
demographic changes over the past decade, and the Latino population is 
the fastest growing group in our state. During my service in the U.S. 
House, I have worked hard to serve the needs and represent the 
interests of all the people of the Second District. I established this 
committee to reach out to some of our newest residents, to open up 
lines of communication, and forge strong bonds among all groups of 
  Mr. Speaker, the Latino Advisory Committee, small upon its inception, 
has grown to over 70 members today. Among those who have joined the 
Committee are the Honorable Carolina Zaragoza-Flores, the Consulate 
General of the Mexican Consulate in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Ms. 
Maribell Diaz, the Executive Director of the Hispanic Task Force of Lee 
County, North Carolina. I am pleased that the members of the Hispanic 
Advisory Committee represent a crosssection of our state's diverse 
Latino population.
  I rely on their insight and knowledge to advise me on issues 
important to their community. For instance, during our last meeting 
held on August 23, 2001, members of the Second Congressional District 
Latino Advisory Committee raised a number of diverse concerns. Mr. 
Speaker, prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, immigration 
and amnesty proposals were hot topics in Washington, and the Bush 
Administration was contemplating major changes in U.S. immigration 
policy. Latino Advisory Committee members expressed concerns that any 
immigration and amnesty proposal should address a number of key points: 
family reunification, earned access to legalization, border safety and 
protection, an enhanced temporary worker program, and fairness for 
immigrants and legal residents. However, as we all know, the terrorist 
attacks put immigration liberalization proposals on the backburner. It 
is my hope that the Congress will not forget the plight of America's 
immigrant families, who still need our help.
  Latino Advisory Committee members also raised concerns about 
extension of the Section 245(i) Visa Program. Mr. Speaker, the Section 
245(i) Visa Program allows illegal immigrants to apply for permanent 
residency while remaining in the country. Our members expressed serious 
concerns that the expiration of the Section 245(i) Visa Program would 
unnecessarily rip immigrant families apart. I believe that Congress 
must answer the call for fairness and justice in our immigration laws 
and extend the Section 245(i) Visa Program. Immigration has played a 
critical role in America's history, and immigrants have been essential 
to the development of our economy and our society. I was disappointed 
that conferees to the Fiscal Year 2002 Commerce-Justice-State 
Appropriations bill elected to omit a Senate provision that would have 
permanently extended this worthy program. It is my sincere hope that 
Congress will extend the Section 245(i) Visa Program soon.
  Mr. Speaker, the next meeting of the Second Congressional District 
Latino Advisory Committee will be held on February 20. 1 look forward 
to another lively discussion with our members about ways in which I can 
better serve them in the U.S. House. I extend my sincere gratitude to 
each member of the Latino Advisory Committee for their participation in 
this group. The most important job I have as a Congressman is to be the 
voice of the people. In the Second District we have many different 
voices and more than one language, and contributions of our Latino 
Community help bring us all together as one unifying chorus. I 
encourage each of my colleagues to consider establishing similar 
committees in their own districts.