Missed Opportunities and Fundamental Choices: AILA on Immigration Deal

Friday, December 15, 2000

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


AILA on Immigration Deal

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Jeanne A. Butterfield, the Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), issued the following statement on the immigration agreement finalized today between the White House and Congress:

“We are pleased that this agreement will provide relief to hundreds of thousands of people who have contributed much to this country.  We wish to commend: the White House and Deputy Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste; the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, especially Representatives Lucille Royball-Allard (CA), Luis Gutierrez (IL) and Robert Menendez (NJ); and other Democratic Congressional leaders, especially Senators Edward Kennedy (MA) and Tom Daschle (SD), and Representatives Dick Gephardt (MO), Howard Berman (CA) and John Conyers (MI).  They deserve the credit for achieving this agreement against overwhelming odds. We also commend the immigrants and immigration advocates across this nation who, along with the White House and our Congressional allies, pushed recalcitrant Republican leaders to the bargaining table.

“Republican leaders missed an opportunity to correct some grave injustices, address major needs in immigrant communities nationwide, and follow the lead of the pro-immigration members of their own caucus like Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL) and Chris Smith (NJ), and Senators John McCain (AZ) and Spencer Abraham (MI). 

“Instead, Republican leadership refused to permit the full restoration of Section 245(i) (opting instead for a four-month grandfathering), that would keep families together and eliminate roadblocks in the way of eligible people becoming legal, and which the Republican-controlled Senate twice passed. They refused to include in the final deal the bipartisan H.R. 5062, which provides limited due process relief for legal permanent residents being deported for minor offenses committed long ago, and which passed the House without a single dissenting vote.  They also refused to discuss NACARA equity, which is supported by such Republican lawmakers as Senator McCain and Representative Chris Smith (NJ), among others, and thus have further delayed the fair resolution of the status of Central Americans, Haitians and others fleeing civil strife who have been mistreated under our laws for nearly 20 years.

“The recent presidential campaign was marked by compassionate conservative rhetoric from the Republican Presidential candidate and now President-elect George Bush, pro-immigrant language in the Republican Party platform, and the party’s public strategy of appealing to immigrant and minority voters. This agreement does not measure up to either the President-elect’s rhetoric or the Republican strategy.

“After reading the details of this agreement, we are left wondering: Will immigrants be faced with additional years of rhetoric but no action on their issues? Will Governor Bush as President turn his pro-immigration rhetoric into reality? Does the restrictionist wing, headed by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), speak for the Republican Party on immigration?  

“Immigrant communities and immigration supporters nationwide will continue to advocate for, among other measures, the complete restoration of Section 245(i), NACARA parity for all fleeing civil strife, and the restoration of due process for legal permanent residents.  These issues top the agenda of our communities and supporters who will continue to advocate for these and other pro-immigration measures until they become law.  We call on President-elect Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress to positively address these issues in the 107th Congress.  Immigrants nationwide will be closely watching.”


Cite as AILA Doc. No. 00121559.