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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Congressional Record: February 26, 2002 (House)]
[Page H527-H529]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr26fe02-90]                         
 
                 FAMILY SPONSOR IMMIGRATION ACT OF 2001

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and 
concur in the Senate amendment to the bill (H.R. 1892) to amend the 
Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for the acceptance of an 
affidavit of support from another eligible sponsor if the original 
sponsor has died and the Attorney General has determined for 
humanitarian reasons that the original sponsor's classification 
petition should not be revoked.
  The Clerk read as follows:

       Senate amendment:
       Page 3, line 4, after ``law,'' insert ``sister-in-law, 
     brother-in-law,''.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) and the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. 
Jackson-Lee) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. 
Sensenbrenner).

                             General Leave

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend 
their remarks and to include extraneous material on H.R. 1892, the bill 
under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Wisconsin?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Madam Speaker, H.R. 1892, the Family Sponsor Immigration Act of 2001, 
was introduced by the two gentlemen from California (Mr. Calvert) and 
(Mr. Issa).
  I want to thank them for bringing to our attention an unintended 
quirk in the Immigration and Nationality Act that needlessly keeps 
families separated. I also want to thank them as well for developing 
this bill, which corrects the problem.
  Each year, the United States provides hundreds of thousands of 
immigrant visas for spouses and other family members of U.S. citizens 
and permanent residents. Tragically, each year a number of these U.S. 
citizens and permanent residents petitioning for their family members 
will die before the immigration process is complete.
  Generally, INS regulations provide for automatic revocation of a 
petition when the petitioner dies. The consequences are severe for a 
beneficiary when his or her petitioner dies before the beneficiary has 
adjusted status or received an immigrant visa. If no other relative can 
qualify as a petitioner, then the beneficiary would lose the 
opportunity to become a permanent resident.
  For instance, if a petition is revoked because a widowed citizen-
father dies after petitioning for an adult unmarried daughter, the 
daughter would have no living mother to file a new petition. If another 
relative can file an immigrant visa petition for the beneficiary, that 
beneficiary would still go to the end of the line if the visa category 
was numerically limited.
  For instance, if the daughter's mother was alive, she could file a 
new first family-preference petition. However, the daughter would lose 
her priority date based on the time her father's petition had been 
filed with the INS and would receive a later priority date based upon 
the filing date of her mother's petition.
  Because of the severe consequences of the revocation of a visa 
petition, INS regulations do allow the Attorney General, in his or her 
discretion, to determine that, for humanitarian reasons, revocation 
would be inappropriate, and thus complete the unification of a family.
  However, there is a complication. The Illegal Immigration Reform and 
Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 requires that when a family member 
petitions for a relative to receive an immigrant visa, the visa can 
only be granted if the petitioner signs a legally-binding affidavit of 
support promising to provide support of the immigrant.
  If the petitioner has died, obviously he or she cannot sign the 
affidavit. Thus even in cases where the Attorney General feels a 
humanitarian waiver of the revocation of the visa petition is 
warranted, under current law a permanent resident visa cannot be 
granted because the affidavit requirement is unfulfilled.
  H.R. 1892 solves this dilemma. It simply provides that in cases where 
the petitioner has died and the Attorney General has determined for 
humanitarian reasons that revocation of the petition would be 
inappropriate, a close family other than the petitioner would be 
allowed to sign the necessary affidavit of support.
  Eligible family members in H.R. 1892, as it passed the House last 
July, would include spouses, parents, grandparents, mothers- and 
fathers-in-law, siblings, adult sons and daughters, adult sons and 
daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. Legal guardians would also be 
eligible.
  The Senate passed a minor amendment to the bill to add brothers- and 
sisters-in-law, and this is the motion to concur in the amendment that 
is before the House today.

                              {time}  1415

  H.R. 1892 is humanitarian and pro-family. I urge my colleagues to 
support the bill.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as 
I may consume.
  Madam Speaker, I rise to support H.R. 1892 and thank the co-sponsors 
of this legislation, the gentleman from California (Mr. Issa) and the 
gentleman from California (Mr. Calvert); and as well I thank the 
chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary for his astuteness and 
commitment to this legislation, having spearheaded its movement through 
the House the last time we were able to vote on it. I as well thank the 
ranking member for his commitment to these issues.
  I believe that this is a legislative initiative that is extremely 
important because it speaks to the cornerstone of immigration policy in 
this Nation, and that is family reunification. In spite of all the 
tragedies that we have faced in the last year and reminding ourselves 
of the tragedy of September 11, I believe this Nation should never 
stray

[[Page H528]]

away from the honest need to reunite families who legally want to 
access the opportunities of citizenship in this country.
  Last July I supported this measure as it passed the House and the 
Senate. The Family Sponsor Immigration Act of 2001 is a very important 
immigration bill with a bipartisan support. We are correcting a glitch 
in the immigration law. As the ranking member of the Subcommittee on 
Immigration Claims of the House Committee on the Judiciary, I was 
pleased to work with the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas), the 
chairman of that subcommittee, on that legislation along with the 
original sponsor of this legislation as well. Again, I thank them for 
their service and their leadership.
  Currently, the Immigration and Nationality Act requires that the same 
person that petitions for the admission of an immigrant must be the 
same person who signs the affidavit of support. That person is called a 
sponsor. So if the sponsor dies, current law does not allow someone 
else to sign the affidavit of support, although they are a legitimate 
person, although there is no attempt to commit fraud; and that person 
is unable to adjust his or her status to receive an immigrant visa even 
though they have been waiting in a line, have a very procedurally 
correct manner, and adhering to laws of our Nation. There lies the 
problem. There lies the complete loss of your opportunity to seek 
citizenship in a legal manner.
  Such consequence of the law toward a beneficiary when his or her 
petitioner dies before the beneficiary has a chance to adjust status or 
receive an immigrant visa has been and continues to be harsh and only 
creates a pool of individuals that remain illegally in this country.
  H.R. 1892 will amend the Immigration Nationality Act to allow an 
alternative sponsor, a close family member; and with the Senate 
amendment, a close family member can be a sister now or a brother-in-
law.
  Additionally, I am pleased that we were able to work out an agreement 
last July that further allows alternative sponsors to be a spouse, a 
parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sibling, child if at least 18 
years of age, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandparent 
or grandchildren and now a brother-in-law or sister-in-law of a 
sponsored alien or legal guardian of a sponsored alien all with the 
idea of reunifying a family.
  I am grateful to all of the members of the subcommittee, Democrats 
and Republicans, who saw fit to ensure that families can stay together. 
This bill, H.R. 1892, which has bipartisan support, is important 
because in the event of death of a sponsor, the beneficiary's 
application will now be able to have someone else sign the affidavit of 
support and the beneficiary's application for permanent residency can 
move forward without losing the beneficiary's priority date, in 
essence, not having them go to the back of the line and, therefore, 
delaying them being reunited with their family.
  Just think of moms and dads whose children are here, young children 
are here or the father and children are here or the mother and children 
are here and they want to reunite with that mother or father.
  Madam Speaker, I believe this is an important initiative that we have 
done in a bipartisan way, and it speaks loudly to the fact that the 
United States will craft a very legitimate immigration policy that 
addresses the question that we are a country of laws, but we are also a 
country of immigrants.
  Madam Speaker, I rise to support H.R. 1892, and I believe that it is 
a legislative initiative that speaks to the cornerstone of immigration 
policy in this Nation: family reunification. Last July I supported this 
measure as it passed the House and the Senate. The Family Sponsor 
Immigration Act of 2001 is a very important immigration bill. With 
bipartisan support, we are correcting a glitch in the immigration law. 
As the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims of 
the House Committee on the Judiciary, I was pleased to work with the 
gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas), the chairman of the 
subcommittee, on this legislation, along with the original sponsors of 
this legislation as well, and I thank them for their service and 
leadership.
  Currently, the Immigration and Nationality Act requires that the same 
person that petitions for the admission of an immigrant must be the 
same person who signs the affidavit of support: the sponsor, that 
person is called. So, if the sponsor dies, current law does not allow 
someone else to sign the affidavit of support, although they are a 
legitimate person, although there is no attempt to commit fraud, and 
that person is unable to adjust his or her status to receive an 
immigrant visa, even though they have been waiting in a line in a very 
procedurally correct manner and adhering to the laws of our Nation. 
Such consequences of the law toward a beneficiary when his or her 
petitioner dies before the beneficiary has a chance to adjust status or 
receive an immigrant visa, has been and continues to be too harsh.
  H.R. 1892 will amend the Immigration Nationality Act to allow an 
alternative sponsor, a close family member, and with the Senate 
amendment a close family member can be a sister or brother-n-law.
  Additionally, I am very pleased that we were able to work out an 
agreement last July that further allows alternative sponsors to be a 
spouse, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sibling, child, if at 
least 18 years of age, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, 
grandparent or grandchild, and now a brother or sister-in-law of a 
sponsored alien or legal guardians of a sponsored alien, all with the 
idea of reunifying a family.
  This bill, H.R. 1892, which has bipartisan support, is important 
because in the event of the death of the sponsor the beneficiary's 
application will now be able to have someone else sign the affidavit of 
support and the beneficiary's application for permanent residency can 
move forward without losing the beneficiary's priority date, in 
essence, not having them go to the back of the line and, therefore, 
delaying them being reunited with their family.
  Madam Speaker, I believe this is an important initiative that we have 
done in a bipartisan way, and I ask my colleagues to support this 
legislation.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman 
from California (Mr. Issa).
  Mr. ISSA. Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1892, Family 
Sponsor Immigration Act of 2001, as amended in the Senate. I want to 
thank our chairman, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner); 
our subcommittee chairman, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Gekas); 
the leadership on both sides of the aisle that worked diligently to 
bring a fuller and more complete reform to the floor here today.
  I would also like to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. 
Calvert), who is not on the committee but who has constituents that 
were faced with exactly this problem and brought it to our attention, 
only to find that I had constituents with this exact same problem, thus 
creating the need for the bill.
  Last I would like to thank Senator Feinstein who has taken time out 
of her busy schedule on the Senate side to research this and to make 
those amendments which, in fact, make this a more thorough bill and 
less likely to need to be revisited.
  Lastly, rather than speaking of the merits of this bill, I would like 
to go down on record as saying that the Family Sponsor Immigration 
Reform Act is just another example of how we work together on a 
bipartisan basis to find the legal alternatives to immigration, and to 
encourage those who play by the rules, those who go through the hoops, 
sometimes a decade, to get their legal status should be rewarded.
  At a time when we are saying to those who come here illegally that we 
will not tolerate it any more, I hope this is the first of many reforms 
that allows us to say we have an open door if you want to come through 
the front door, and we are closing and locking the back door.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as 
I may consume.
  Madam Speaker, let me conclude by again acknowledging my support, but 
also raising two important points that I would like to acknowledge. I 
might say that the chairman of the full committee has expressed a great 
interest in this, and I want to thank him for his support on these 
issues.
  I hope that we can finally bring some rest to the passage of 245-i 
which is another legislative initiative that deals with the reuniting 
of families. I know that our committee worked very hard on that 
legislation.
  Then I think, again, in the shadow of the tragedies that we faced 
this past September, it is important that we

[[Page H529]]

move consistently with a purpose to reorder our immigration policies by 
means of restructuring the INS with an assistant attorney general for 
immigration affairs so that we can share data and information. 
Intelligence is clearly a key element of what we need to reform our 
immigration policies and to fight terrorism, two dual issues which I 
think we can do.
  Immigration does not equate to terrorism. I hope we have an 
opportunity to debate those legislative initiatives, get them passed, 
and begin on a pathway of formulating a very comprehensive immigration 
policy for the United States of America. I offer my support for this 
legislation.
  Ms. WOOLSEY. Madam Speaker, today I support and applaud the House's 
final passage of the ``Family Immigration Sponsor Act.'' And, I thank 
my colleague, Mr. Calvert, for his work on this issue.
  A family in my district, with a tragic story, has become a well-known 
example of why this bill's passage is necessary. Mrs. Zhenfu Ge, a 73-
year-old Chinese national, came to the United States in 1998 to help 
care for her dying daughter and her daughter's children. Her daughter--
my constituent Yanyu Wong--requested that her mother be allowed to stay 
in America to take care of her grandchildren. Following the rules of 
the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), my constituent 
immediately submitted the appropriate paperwork to sponsor her mother's 
petition for a green card so she could stay in the United States.
  Sadly, on April 15, 2001, Yanyu Wong lost her fight against cancer. 
This was only 11 days before the INS was scheduled to grant Mrs. Ge's 
permanent resident status. In a desperate attempt to keep his mother-
in-law in the country, my constituent's husband petitioned to be Mrs. 
Ge's new sponsor. However, INS law mandates the sponsor be another 
adult blood relative. Without an adult blood relative left alive to 
sponsor her, Mrs. Ge was told that she must go back to China and 
restart the visa process.
  Realizing the devastating results of these circumstances, I 
introduced H.R. 2011, a private bill to allow Mrs. Ge to remain legally 
in the United States while she completed the process to attain legal 
status. Forcing Mrs. Ge to abandon her family during this time would 
only add to the family tragedy. Enabling Mrs. Ge to stay in the country 
could give the children a living link to their mother, and her culture, 
something they would be denied forever if Mrs. Ge is deported.
  With the passage of Representative Calvert's Family Immigration 
Sponsor Act, Mrs. Ge will be able to stay in America and take care of 
her grandchildren, while she completes the immigration process. With 
the passage of this bill, Mrs. Ge can keep her promise to her daughter.
  There's no doubt that the Family Immigration Sponsor Act will be able 
to assist other families in situations similar to Mrs. Ge's. Passing 
H.R. 1892 is the smart way for this country to help encourage families 
to stay intact.
  Mr. WU. Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1892, the Family 
Sponsor Immigration Act, introduced by my colleague Representative Ken 
Calvert.
  Our government plays a key role in shaping the lives of thousands of 
immigrants. It is our duty to ensure that our system is fair to 
aspiring residents.
  Under our current law, someone applying to become a permanent U.S. 
resident must be sponsored by a family member who assumes financial 
responsibility for that person. However, if the sponsor dies before 
U.S. permanent residency is granted, the applicant must find another 
sponsor and start the process all over again. This process can take as 
long as 7 years.
  This must change.
  As an immigrant, I understand the difficulties of the immigration 
process. One should not have to wait another 7 years if the sponsor 
dies. H.R. 1892 addresses this issue. It would allow for substitute 
sponsors. More importantly, it will help unite families that have been 
separated.
  I applaud Representative Calvert for introducing this important 
legislation, and I urge my fellow colleagues to join in support of this 
bill which will ensure a fair process for those seeking U.S. residency.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Madam Speaker, I have no further requests 
for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I have no further requests for 
time, and I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mrs. Biggert). The question is on the motion 
offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) that the 
House suspend the rules and concur in the Senate amendment to the bill, 
H.R. 1892.
  The question was taken.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds of 
those present have voted in the affirmative.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX and the 
Chair's prior announcement, further proceedings on this motion will be 
postponed.
                          ____________________




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