AILA’s Press Release on the Introduction of the Earned Legalization and Family Unification Act

American Immigration Lawyers Association

Contact: Judith Golub (202) 216-2403
October 10, 2002  


We Need to Get it Right, Immigration Experts Say

Washington, D.C.- "The United States' immigration system needs to be reformed to reflect current needs and realities," said Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  "We thus welcome the introduction today by Representative Dick Gephardt (D-MO) of the Earned Legalization and Family Unification Act of 2002. AILA views the introduction of this bill as an important first step.  It is high time we return to the important task of reforming our immigration system," continued Ms. Butterfield.  "This bill begins this task by including long-overdue provisions that would grant hard-working people an earned adjustment and dramatically decrease the backlogs in family-based immigration.  We call on the White House to step up to the plate and take a leadership role by resuming the U.S./Mexico discussions."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has long supported reform of our immigration system.  As a result of our current system, families are separated for long periods of time and U.S. employers cannot bring in needed workers.  People are forced to live an underground existence in the shadows, declining to make themselves known to the government for fear of being separated form their families and jobs.  "We need to target our enforcement resources on people who mean to do us harm, not on those who are filling our labor market needs, revitalizing our communities, and seeking to fulfill the American Dream," said Ms. Butterfield. 

The Earned Legalization and Family Unification Act of 2002 recognizes that the status quo is unacceptable, especially in a post-September 11 world in which enhanced security is a priority, as is the need to balance our security with the continued flow of people and goods.  AILA looks forward to working in the next Congress on this vitally needed reform with immigration supporters in the House and Senate. Successful immigration reform will take account of the following: 

  • Immigration reform must be comprehensive:  The United States' immigration system needs to be reformed to reflect current needs and realities.  The status quo is unacceptable. Our immigration system needs to be reformed so that legality is the norm, and immigration is legal, safe, orderly, and reflective of the needs of American families, businesses, and national security.  Such reform would include an earned adjustment for hard-working people, family backlog reduction and a new temporary worker program.
  • Immigration reform is an important component of our enhanced national security.  Immigration reform that legalizes hard-working people already here and that creates a new temporary worker program will help the U.S. government focus its resources on enhancing security, not on detaining hard-working people who are filling vacancies in the U.S. labor market or seeking to reunite with their close family members. In addition, reform that includes a new legalization program and a temporary worker program will encourage people to come out of the shadows and be scrutinized by our government.
  • A central component of immigration reform is an earned adjustment for people in the U.S. without authorization: People who work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to the U.S. should have the opportunity to obtain permanent residence. In order to unite families and keep them together, liberal and generous waivers must be made available for grounds of admissibility and deportability.
  • Another central component of reform is the creation of a new temporary worker program: Current immigration laws do not meet the needs of our economy for short- and long-term employees in those sectors currently experiencing worker shortages and others that are expected to experience shortages when the economy rebounds.  A new temporary program would give workers the opportunity to work in areas of the country where they are needed and would give employers experiencing shortages the workforce they need.  Current programs often have proven unusable by both employees and employers, and do not accommodate employers facing longer-term, chronic labor shortages.  The framework for a new temporary worker program must differ significantly from existing programs, and must respect both the labor needs of business as well as the rights of workers.
  • A third necessary component of reform is opening up legal channels for family- and business-based immigration: Our immigration system has been characterized by long backlogs in family-based immigration and long delays in business-based immigration.  Illegal immigration is a symptom of a system that fails to reunify families and address economic conditions in the U.S. and abroad.

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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the INS and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.


American Immigration Lawyers Association
918 F Street NW, Washington, DC, 20004-1400
Phone (202) 216-2400; Fax (202) 783-7853


Cite as AILA Doc. No. 02101071.