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Summer 2000 Legislative Highlights
by by Cyrus D. Mehta

The 106th Congress has limited legislative days left, possibly no more than 45 (depending on how Congress deals with appropriations issues), before members recess to campaign for the November elections. It is a good time to review legislative priorities and where we go from here in order to help ensure success. During June we urge you to contact your elected officials in their D.C. offices. The up-coming July 4 recess (scheduled for July 1-9) provides advocates with the perfect opportunity to schedule face-to-face meetings in your home states with your Senators and Representatives. The telephone number for the Capitol Switchboard is (202) 224-3121. Call that number and ask to be connected to your Senators and Representatives.

H-1B Visas.

The House Judiciary Committee in May approved H.R. 4227, introduced by Representatives Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX). AILA, along with its business community allies, strongly opposes this measure and, instead, supports H.R. 3983 introduced by Representatives David Dreier (R-CA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). In early June, Representatives received a letter signed by about 400 business associations, companies and universities supporting H.R. 3983. House leadership, including the Chair of the Rules Committee, Representative Dreier, will have to determine shortly whether it will support H.R. 3983 or continue to insist on H.R. 4227. The Senate is expected to vote in June on S. 2045, sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Spencer Abraham (R-MI). We strongly support this measure.

Please contact your Representatives and urge them to cosponsor H.R. 3983. Also please contact House leadership and urge them to schedule a vote on H.R. 3983. Call your Senators and urge them to support S. 2045 and move it quickly to the Senate floor.

INS Reorganization

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up in June H.R. 3918, the INS reform measure sponsored by Representatives Hal Rogers (R-KY), Lamar Smith and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX). AILA opposes this measure and notes that neither the Immigration Claims Subcommittee, which Mr. Smith chairs, nor the Judiciary Committee has scheduled action on H.R. 2680, the INS reorganization bill sponsored by Ms. Jackson-Lee that AILA supports. Likewise, the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee has yet to schedule a mark up date for S. 1563, sponsored by Senators Abraham and Edward Kennedy (D-MA). AILA strongly supports S. 1563.

Please call your Representatives and urge them to oppose H.R. 3918 and support H.R. 2680. Contact Senator Abraham and urge him to schedule a mark-up of S. 1563.


Numerous measures have been introduced in the House to reform IIRAIRA, most notably H.R. 3272, introduced by Representative Filner (D-CA), and H.R. 1485, introduced by Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Martin Frost (D-TX). Neither has been scheduled for a mark up before the House Immigration Subcommittee. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) is set to introduce shortly his omnibus reform bill. Republican House leadership has conceded the need to address retroactivity, but this recognition has yet to lead to any action. On the Senate side, Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Bob Graham (D-FL) have finalized their IIRAIRA reform bill. Advocates are awaiting its introduction, and are urging Senator Connie Mack (R-FL) to support this effort.

Please contact your Representatives and urge them to reform IIRAIRA by supporting H.R. 3272 and H.R. 1485. Urge your Senators to contact the offices of Senators Kennedy and Graham to support their efforts.

Restoration of Section 245(i):

Two initiatives this year (H.R. 1841, introduced by Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Connie Morella (R-MD), and S. 2668, introduced by Senators Bob Graham (D-FL) and Gordon Smith (R-OR)) would allow eligible people to adjust their status in the U.S. and provide millions of dollars in additional funding (about $200 million in a recent fiscal year) to reduce INS backlogs, at no cost to taxpayers. Restoring Section 245(i) would allow eligible people living here to pay a $1,000 fee and adjust their status in this country. Since Section 245(i) was grandfathered in 1998, INS backlogs have skyrocketed, families have been separated, businesses have lost valuable employees and eligible people must leave the country (often for years) in order to adjust.

Please urge your Representatives to support H.R. 1841 in the House and support restoring Section 245(i) in the FY 2001 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bills in the House and Senate.

NACARA Equity of Relief

Two measures would grant equity of relief to similarly situated immigrants. S. 1529, sponsored by Senators Kennedy and Richard Durbin (D-IL), and H.R. 2772, sponsored by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) would amend NACARA to provide to certain nationals of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti an opportunity to apply for adjustment of status under that Act. AILA supports both measures.

Call your Senators and Representatives and urge them to support the bills, and ask Senate and House leaders to schedule mark ups.

Updating the Registry Date

For more than seventy years, U.S. immigration laws have included a provision called "registry" that gives immigrants who have resided continuously in the U.S. since the registry date an opportunity to adjust their status. Legislation has been introduced (S. 2046/H.R. 4138) that would move the cutoff date for this "statute of limitations," now set at 1972. While the registry date has been updated six times since 1929, it has not been changed since 1986. Because of the 1996 immigration laws, updating the registry date is especially needed to correct a miscarriage of justice against "late legalization" applicants. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Edward Kennedy introduced S. 2407, the Date of Registry Act, and Representatives Sheila Jackson-Lee and Luis Gutierrez introduced H.R. 4138 that would make this long overdue change.

Please contact your Senators to urge them to support S. 2407 and your Representatives to support H.R. 4138.

Section 110

President Clinton is expected shortly to sign a bill (H.R. 4489) that effectively eliminates Section 110. H.R. 4489, sponsored by Representatives Lamar Smith and Fred Upton (R-MI) in the House, and Senator Abraham in the Senate, represents the compromise reached between the opponents (Representative Upton and Senator Abraham, among others) and proponents of Section 110 (Representative Lamar Smith). AILA, along with its business community allies in the coalition AILA helped create -- Americans for Better Borders, supports the compromise as a victory on the issue and a defeat for the proponents of IIRAIRA.

The bill would replace the requirement of new entry-exit controls at all ports of entry for all foreign nationals, with a new, integrated database system that would allow INS, Customs, State Department and other law enforcement agencies to access the data already collected on entries and exits. The bill specifically prohibits INS from introducing new data collection procedures.


In late May, Senators Bob Graham (D-FL) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) introduced S. 2668, the Family, Work and Immigrant Integration Amendments of 2000. This omnibus bill would address many of the immigration issues that top AILA's advocacy agenda, with the exception of due process reform. S. 2668 offers a broad package of family and employment reform measures. The bill includes NACARA Parity; extends the NACARA filing deadline; allows Liberian refugees who have been continuously present in the U.S. to apply for adjustment of status; restores Section 245(i); updates the registry date to 1986 and then advances it one year for the next five years; and provides additional visas for family members of citizens and permanent residents to reduce backlogs in the family-based categories. (The new limit is set at 200,000 per year, with the per country ceilings raised proportionately.) The bill also provides unaccompanied or orphaned children in the jurisdiction of the INS with several protections; restores modest benefits for legal immigrants; would allow spouses and children of permanent residents who have green card applications pending to enter the U.S. with nonimmigrant student and/or visitor visas; eliminates per country limitation in employment-based immigration if additional visas are available; increases portability of H-1B visas; encourages swifter adjudication of petitions, and allows unused visas from one year to be used the following year.

S. 2668 was introduced as a signal that Congress needs to address these important immigration issues. Senators Graham and Smith hope these provisions will be attached to other bills. Please contact your Senators to urge them to support S. 2668 generally and its provisions separately.

Cyrus D. Mehta, a graduate of Cambridge University and Columbia Law School, practices immigration law in New York City.He is the trustee of the American Immigration Law Foundation and recipient of the 1997 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyers Award.He frequently lectures on various immigration subjects at legal seminars, workshops and universities and may be contacted at 212-686-1581 or