AILA Press Release on LIFE Act

October 31, 2000

CONTACT:Matt Tallmer, Public Affairs Manager
202-216-2404;    Fax: 202-371-9449


WASHINGTON, D.C. -Saying a Republican immigration proposal that helps both legal and illegal immigrants is a good first step in addition to, not instead of, a Democratic proposal that provides much-needed relief for deserving immigrants, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) today called on President Clinton and leaders of the Senate and House to negotiate a reasonable agreement that will help long-time immigrants and their families become permanent residents.

“We embrace the Legal Immigration Families Equity Act (LIFE) sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that, among other provisions, would help some of the individuals wrongly denied legalization in the mid-1980s, and spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents who have waited more than three years for their permanent residency.  But the fact remains that LIFE does not go far enough,” said Jeanne A. Butterfield, AILA’s Executive Director.  It offers nothing for the spouses and children of U.S citizens, and offers no relief for the valued employees of businesses, and is silent on the unequal treatment of refugees now residing in the U.S.

Butterfield commended LIFE, which was included in the Commerce, Justice and State appropriations bill approved last week by the House and Senate, for helping people who are here both legally and illegally.  She noted that about half of the 700,000 people who would benefit under the LIFE provision for spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents are here illegally. Further, immigration experts estimate that up to 70% of the 1,000,000 people helped by the LIFE provision pertaining to those wrongly denied legalization in the 1980s also entered the U.S. illegally.

Those helped by the LIFE proposal are long-time, contributing members of society who have family and business ties here and merit relief. Key employer groups, including the National Restaurant Association, note that stabilizing and regularizing their workforces is essential for America’s continued economic growth.

Ms. Butterfield made her remarks at a Capitol Hill press conference convened by representatives of the National Council of La Raza, the National Restaurant Association, the National Immigration Forum, along with AILA. All these organizations, among others, endorse S. 2912, the Latino and Immigrant Fairness Act (LIFA), sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Bob Graham (D-FL). Other political leaders supporting LIFA include President Clinton, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp.

“LIFA helps specifically targeted groups of long-term, contributing immigrants apply for permanent residency. It is not blanket amnesty. Rather, LIFA offers benefits to people who are here both legally and illegally, as does the Hatch proposal,” Butterfield said.

LIFA specifically would allow all victims of the INS’ misinterpretations of the 1986 legalization program, plus their immediate family members, to apply for green cards. It also would extend NACARA to people fleeing civil strife and war, thereby correcting past discriminatory treatment of refugees. Finally, it would restore Section 245(i), thereby allowing individuals who are eligible for immigrant visas after being sponsored by a close family member or an employer to finish the process here, rather than being forced to leave the U.S. for up to 10 years.

“The Administration and Republican leaders are not that far apart on policy. Their differences are rhetorical. Both proposals would benefit immigrants who have been in legal but vulnerable status, as well as those who are here illegally. Both merit Congressional approval. LIFA and LIFE combined would provide stability and relief to hundreds of thousands of long-term, tax-paying immigrants and their families and employers. We urge leaders on all sides to turn down the volume and negotiate a positive agreement,” Butterfield said.



Cite as AILA Doc. No. 00110159.