Congress Needs to Move on Immigration Issues

For Immediate Release
Monday, November 1, 1999


Matthew Tallmer
Public Affairs Manager
Office: 202-216-2404
Fax: 202-371-9449

Congress Needs to Move on Immigration Issues:  
Adequate Funding for Services; Late Amnesty Equitable Relief;

WASHINGTON – President Clinton and Congress need to address several key immigration issues before Congress recesses, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

“Between now and the 2000 elections, we will be focusing on our priority issues. We call on the President and lawmakers of both parties to join us, and send a pro-immigrant message to the millions of new citizens and voters who care about immigrants,” said Jeanne Butterfield, AILA’s Executive Director. “Before Congress adjourns, we urge them to adequately fund INS services that support the national interest, allow potential immigrants their day in court, and treat all immigrants equally. For the long-term, we call upon Congress to amend the overly harsh 1996 immigration laws.”

Adequate Funding.Currently, immigration benefits and services (adjudications) are funded through user fees. Approximately $300 million of user fees in recent years have gone for such non-adjudications projects as inspector general investigations, enforcement, and upgrading the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s computers. The multi-million-dollar diversions are one reason the INS has a huge adjudications backlog.

“The only way to ensure that refugees can enter the U.S., that people can be naturalized, can reunite with their families, and that businesses can hire needed workers without inordinate delays is for Congress to support adjudications with appropriated funds and user fees. While the current budget sets aside $124 million for INS services, that isn’t nearly enough. We call upon the Administration and Congress to fully and adequately fund naturalization and other adjudications,” Butterfield said. 

Late Amnesty. A 1986 law was designed to allow some 3 million long-term resident immigrants living in the U.S. to obtain legal status. The INS gave people, including AILA members, misleading and mistaken information about who the law covered. A federal court ordered the INS to accept and evaluate nearly 350,000 applications. Congress intervened in 1996 and stripped federal court jurisdiction in these so-called “late amnesty” cases.

“Congress should step up to the plate and correct the injustice it committed three years ago. We urge President Clinton and lawmakers to restore court jurisdiction, and to allow the INS to finally process the 350,000 applications that should have been accepted and adjudicated more than a decade ago,” Butterfield said.

Treat All Equally. The issue of equitable relief arose because Congress enacted several changes in immigration law providing differing levels of benefits and relief from deportation for different refugees from Central America, Haiti, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union.  “It makes no sense to give certain refugees a green card, while forcing other equally deserving groups to undergo further interminable court proceedings in order to try to win protection,” Butterfield said. “We should provide just and equitable relief for all refugees, regardless of their particular country of origin.” 

In the long-term, Butterfield reiterated, AILA urges Congress to revisit the overly harsh 1996 immigration laws. “As some Congressmen who supported these laws now realize, the 1996 laws violate key American principles of law, justice, fairness, and family values; they went too far, and must be changed to restore the balance.”


Cite as AILA Doc. No. 99110413.