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Congress urged to reinstate immigration provision

May 10, 2001|By JESSICA ROCHA, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — Members of the House urged Congress on Wednesday to act on President Bush's recommendation to reinstate an expired immigration provision that would allow eligible undocumented immigrants to apply for residency without leaving the United States.

Referring to the letters Bush sent to congressional leaders last week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D- Ill., said he was "pleased by (Bush's) signature. … We expect the level of support (for an extension) to increase."

An estimated 200,000 people eligible to apply for residency under the law missed the April 30 deadline. From 1994 until 1998, some illegal immigrants with family legally living in the United States were eligible to apply for residency without leaving the country. The application included a fee of $1,000.

In 1996, however, a new law barred re-entry for at least three years of any individual who overstayed his or her visa. In December, Congress passed a four-month reinstatement of the provision to allow those who faced being barred from the U.S. an opportunity to stay in the country legally. The provision expired at midnight April 30. Gutierrez, along with Maryland Republican Rep. Connie Morella, introduced legislation last week to extend the provision permanently. The bill has 15 co-sponsors and is one of four introduced in the House this year that propose some type of extension.


All are being reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee.

Committee spokesman Jeff Lungren said the House would vote on a temporary extension "in the next couple of weeks," but would more than likely not recommend a permanent extension.

"I don't think anyone believes there is enough political support for a permanent extension," Lungren said, adding that Bush's letter to Congress referred simply to an "extension."

Two bills call for a six-month extension, another calls for a one-year extension, but the Judiciary Committee does not have to limit itself to those proposals. Jeanne Butterfield, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the probability of an extension becoming law was good, but could end up being meaningless in practice.

"The devil is in the details," said Butterfield. "They could technically pass a two-week extension."

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