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[Congressional Record: January 8, 2003 (Extensions)]
[Page E23-E24]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []



                         HON. LUIS V. GUTIERREZ

                              of illinois

                    in the house of representatives

                        Tuesday, January 7, 2003

  Mr. GUTIERREZ. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to announce the introduction 
of my bill, the ``U.S. Employee, Family Unity and Legalization Act'' or 
the ``U.S.E.F.U.L. Act.''
  I am very pleased to reintroduce legislation that reflects the global 
reality of our economy and the migratory nature of the labor market. 
Today, more than ever, immigrants play a critical role in our country's 
well-being and competently fill voids in our workforce and add strength 
and stability to our society.
  My bill will help many immigrants realize their potential and our 
Nation's promise. Tax payers, home and business owners, parents and 
grandparents, neighbors and friends will no longer be forced to hide in 
the shadows of a country with a broken immigration system.
  The USEFUL Act will enable immigrants now in the country to become 
eligible for permanent residency if they have lived in the U.S. for at 
least 5 years, regardless of their current immigration status. My bill 
calls for an immediate revision of the ``date of registry'', a 
provision in current immigration law that allows people to apply for 
permanent resident status if they had entered the United States by a 
specific date.
  Updating the registry date has been a sensible practice of our 
nation's immigration policy since 1929, yet Congress has allowed the 
registry date to remain set at January 1, 1972. As a result, the 
historic and fair recognition of valuable contributions of long-term, 
law-abiding, tax-paying residents of the United States has been 
  The 1972 registry date has essentially become obsolete. My bill would 
immediately update the registry date to January 1, 1998, thus granting 
legal status to any immigrant who can establish that he or she was 
living in the United States by that time. The registry date would then 
roll forward by one year at a time every subsequent year until 2009. 
Thus, my bill would eventually grant permanent residency to every 
immigrant who entered the United States by January 1, 2003.
  Some people might say that this legislation is bold, ambitious, and 
faces an uphill battle. I agree.
  This bill is all of those things, but it is also legislation that is 
sound, sensible, and will ultimately be successful. My proposal will 
not only benefit deserving immigrants who have adopted the United 
States as their home, but all people who rely on safe communities and a 
sound and sustainable economy.
  Immigrants are vital to the health and strength of a number of 
economic sectors,

[[Page E24]]

such as the agricultural, service and construction industries. 
Immigrants are also vital to the smooth running of our daily lives--
they educate our children, wash our dishes, mow our lawns, take care of 
our aging parents and grandparents, serve our food and clean our homes.

  If these workers are able enough, are responsible enough to care for 
our children, parents, and grandparents, should they not at least be 
afforded the benefits they have rightfully earned?
  A study highlighting the economic contributions of immigrants 
released just last month by the Center for Labor Market Studies at 
Northeastern University reported what many of us have understood for 
some time: Immigrant labor is absolutely essential to the health of the 
U.S. economy, both in terms of filling gaps in the labor market and 
expanding the nation's tax base.
  Despite the well-documented contributions of immigrants, some people 
still might say, in light of the attacks of September 11, that this is 
a bill whose time cannot come.
  I would strongly disagree. In fact, I would say that this bill is 
long overdue.
  We must not let our national security concerns cast a dark shadow 
over the importance and real contributions of immigrants to our 
country. We should not allow terrorists to destroy the hopes and quest 
for a better life that is inherent in each and every immigrant seeking 
a better life while making a considerable contribution to our 
  Given the difficult lessons we learned from the tragedies of 
September 11th and our subsequent efforts to make this country safer 
for all of us, I would say we need this kind of bold immigration 
reform, like we have never needed it before. In fact, our national 
security demands it.
  We are all aware than an estimated 8 to 9 million undocumented 
immigrants live in this country. Imagine this community of people 
currently living in the shadows brought forward to live openly in our 
society as legal permanent residents.
  Imagine the relief it will provide to parents who, like the 
immigrants before them, came in search of a better life for their 
  Imagine the relief of employers who depend on the work of these 
immigrants to keep their hotels, restaurants, factories, and businesses 
  As a nation, we have committed immense resources to make our 
communities safer and to root out terrorists. Imagine our collective 
relief as Americans when we, alongside our immigrant friends who have 
come to build this Nation, are better able to focus our efforts on 
identifying and delivering justice to those that come to tear down this 
  The United States has been and always will be a country of 
immigrants. I believe the USEFUL Act will go far toward easing the 
plight of long-term U.S. residents who, for all practical purposes are 
here to stay, but who under current immigration law remain vulnerable. 
Ultimately, we will all benefit from a stronger, more stable workforce.
  I also believe my bill will be extremely useful in our efforts to 
better secure the homeland and to protect us from future terrorist 
  I urge my colleagues to help achieve needed immigration reform by 
supporting the USEFUL Act.