April 2004

Despite amnesty's connotation as being synonymous with "rewarding persons who have engaged in illegal activity," Kerry told the world at the Albuquerque, N.M., Democratic Primary debate:

"I supported and was prepared to vote for amnesty from 1986. And it is essential to have immigration reform. Anyone who has been in this country for five or six years, who's paid their taxes, who has stayed out of trouble, ought to be able to translate into an American citizenship immediately, not waiting."

"I support an earned legalization proposal that will allow undocumented immigrants to legalize their status if they have been in the United States for a certain amount of time, have been working, and can pass a background check. This makes sense for the economy, provides fairness to people in our communities who have worked hard and paid taxes, and will also allow us to strengthen our homeland security by bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows."

Sen. Kerry is also a co-sponsor of S. 1645, the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2003. This bill would create a guest-worker program that leads to amnesty for certain agricultural workers. The potential recipients of the amnesty will be required to prove 100 days of agricultural employment in the 18-month period that ended Aug. 31, 2003. Then, prior to receiving amnesty, workers would have to show 360 days of additional farm work over the next six years.

As to Kerry's opinion of the president's proposed program: "We need comprehensive immigration reform; you can't do just one piece. The president's plan is a fraudulent plan. It's fundamentally a plan for cheap labor."

President Bush addressed his views on an amnesty when announcing his own immigration proposal, which was covered in previous issues of Immigration Update. "I oppose amnesty, placing undocumented workers on the automatic path to citizenship," Bush said. "Granting amnesty encourages the violation of our laws and perpetuates illegal immigration. America's a welcoming country. But citizenship must not be the automatic reward for violating the laws of America."

Under the Bush plan, illegal immigrants already in the United States can apply for the temporary worker program only if they already have a job. The special status would last for three years and could be renewed once, for a total stay of six years. If temporary workers failed to stay employed or broke the law, they would be sent home.

In the immigrant community, there appears to be much confusion about the current status of Bush's proposal. The plan has not yet been introduced in either House of Congress. When it is introduced as a bill, it will have to pass in both Houses before being signed into law. The timeline for this is difficult to estimate. There is much opposition to the proposal from the President's own party, and a Chicago news article on this issue, released on February 21, 2004, quotes the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Senator Chambliss (R) of Georgia, expressing doubt that the President's immigration reform agenda will pass this year. Instead, the Senator believes it will take place "within the next couple of calendar years." Whether it will actually pass at any time is still within doubt, but we will continue to update Khabar readers with the latest on all immigration proposals.


With the election year underway, both parties are vying for votes through immigration-related legislation. The following is a brief description of newly introduced legislation significant to the Southeast Asian community, currently under consideration in Congress:

S. 2128, the Natural Born Citizen Act, introduced by Sen. Nickles (R-OK) would define the term "natural born citizen" as used in the Constitution of the United States to establish eligibility for the Office of President.

S. 2089, introduced by Sen. Chambliss of Georgia, would amend the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) to allow aliens who are eligible for diversity visas to be eligible beyond the fiscal year in which they applied. In addition to providing relief for future diversity applicants, the bill would also authorize qualified diversity applicants who were denied permanent residence as a result of processing backlogs during fiscal years 1998 and 2003 to reopen their cases and continue processing as long as diversity visas for the fiscal year in which they applied remain available.

S. 2071 would expand the definition of immediate relative for purposes of the INA to include the non-U.S. citizen children of a parent of a U.S. citizen when the parent is being sponsored by his or her U.S. citizen son or daughter, and the non-U.S. citizen children are accompanying or following to join the parent.

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