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Bill allows green card applications to be filed in Calexico

March 15, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Hundreds of Mexican citizens living and working here illegally could receive green cards from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service instead of having to travel across Sonora to file paperwork in Ciudad Juarez.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would allow 250,000 illegal immigrants — including hundreds here — to pay $1,000 to the INS to have the agency process their green card paperwork here instead of in Mexico. The green cards would allow the people to live and work here legally.

Michael Freeman, Calexico's INS ports director, said the closest place illegal immigrants can file green card applications is Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The bill was approved in the House by a 275-137 vote. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, who represents the Imperial Valley, voted against the bill's passage.

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In coming days Senate leaders will debate the fine points of the legislation.

President George Bush has said he will sign a bill similar to the House version if legislation hits his desk. Just when that will be is in doubt.

Senate majority leader Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., is reportedly not happy with the bill, according to The Associated Press.

Many Capitol Hill observers think Bush is just trying to push the bill through before his upcoming meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Byrd seemed unswayed after House leaders tacked on a package of raises for INS works and some $300 million for upgraded border technology.

Hunter's office was unswayed from the get-go.

Hunter spokesman Michael Harrison said, "A lot of people say ‘illegally' and it just rolls of their tongue. These individuals broke the law. Now they're being told to pay $1,000 and stay here while your paperwork is being taken care of. It's not fair for all of the people who are waiting to get green cards."

Freeman said those eligible to take advantage of the $1,000 loophole will have to be sponsored by a family member.

"A husband or a wife or a daughter or a son will say, ‘I want to bring this person in,' versus waiting for the consulate to approve your visa," he said.

Harrison said, "Look, no one wants to see families separated. This just doesn't strengthen our immigration policies at all."

Freeman was asked why illegal immigrants aren't deported when they came forward to apply for new green cards.

"If we encounter someone here that has bad documents, we're not going to try to deport them. Why would we be looking for this person when we know this person?" he asked.

Harrison was asked why Hunter wouldn't be in favor of legislation that allows the INS to make $1,000 a head per application and keep an eye on illegal immigrants in the U.S.

"The problem with that: How do you know it's reliable source of identification. You have to remember this is someone who broke the law. They could provide any information out there. They could be al-Qaida. They could say I'm from Mexico and actually be from Egypt or something. No, $1,000 isn't worth the leaks in security," Harrison said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

HUNTER'S STATEMENT ON H.R. 1885

>> Congressman Hunter made the following statement regarding his vote against H.R. 1885, the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last evening 275-137.

"This legislation is simply bad policy," said Hunter. "Reinstating the 245(i) provision only encourages future illegal immigration by rewarding those who broke our current laws to come to the United States. It also poses a strong national security risk by sidestepping the background checks that are required for all potential immigrants. Our immigration procedures should be strengthened as a result of Sept. 11, not weakened and any effort to do so can only be characterized as irresponsible. I strongly encourage President Bush to rethink his position on this issue."

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