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Hispanics Ask Congress to Approve Immigration Measures

Santiago Tavara

Efe - October 19, 2000

Washington, Oct 19, 2000 (EFE) - Hispanic legislators and activists on Thursday urged Congress to include the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act (LIFA) in the final version of the fiscal 2001 budget.

The proposal, which includes measures to stabilize the legal situation of more than 800,000 immigrants in the United States, has the support of President Bill Clinton who, according to his advisors, has threatened to veto any bill that excludes these protections for Hispanics.

These proposals "will benefit thousands of immigrants who, for many years, have contributed to the U.S. economy and the well-being of the country," the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Rick Dovalina, said at a press conference.

These measures seek to extend the same protections currently offered to Cubans and Nicaraguans under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) to immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti and Liberia.

The bill would also grant amnesty to immigrants who arrived in the United States before 1986.

In addition, legislators are seeking to reinstate section 245 (i) of the U.S. Immigration Code to allow families to stay together while their applications for permanent resident status are being processed.

Rep. Robert Menendez (Dem.-NJ) said that it is "essential that this proposal be passed before Congress adjourns for the year."

Menendez said Congress should also approve other bills that would increase medical assistance to children and pregnant women who are legal residents and extend NACARA protections to Peruvian and Colombian refugees.

The lawmaker criticized the Republican leadership in Congress for not including these measures in a law that increased the number of H1-B visas granted to foreign professionals and skilled workers with special high-technology skills.

"It seems that the Republican majority, through its actions, has consciously decided to ignore the six million Hispanic voters" who as of this year make up 8 percent of voters in the United States, Menendez said.

During the conference Congressman Lamar Smith (Rep.-TX) was criticized for saying that Clinton is trying to grant a massive amnesty for one to two million illegal immigrants in the appropriations bills for the Labor, State and Justice Departments.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Dem.-TX) said that this figure is speculative and that one of the measures Democrats are promoting would favor immigrants who do not benefit from the 1986 amnesty due to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) errors.

Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Rep.-FL) on Thursday requested the approval of the Andean Adjustment Act for Peruvian and Colombian refugees, according to a letter sent to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Orin Hatch (Rep.-UT).

The LIFA bill was presented by Sens. Edward Kennedy (Dem.-MA), Harry Reid (Dem.-NV), Richard Durbin (Dem.-IL) and Bob Graham (Dem.-FL).

Hispanic organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) support the LIFA proposals but oppose a bill that seeks to extend the H-2A program to include agricultural workers.

The regional director for the MALDEF office in Washington, Marisa Demeo, said that the H-2A program offers limited legalization opportunities and has a very complicated registration system. EFE

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