- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

President Bill Clinton was in a vetoing mood during his last lap in office. Although Mr. Clinton entered the so-called lame duck months and lawmakers were eager to get home to campaign, the president and Congress did not miss a final opportunity for some legislative wrangling.
Mr. Clinton told lawmakers he would veto immigration legislation, which had passed the House and Senate, if lawmakers didn't promise to include his own immigration proposals in other bills. Congress needs to build on the immigration law it passed recently, which makes it easier for U.S. residents to get their relatives temporary visas and allows some applications for visas to be heard in court. But it shouldn't integrate the president's ill-conceived recommendations.
Mr. Clinton has claimed the moral high road on immigration, but his proposals fail to allocate America's hospitality where it's most needed. Mr. Clinton has proposed that all immigrants who have resided in the United States illegally since 1986 should be given a blanket amnesty. This strategy appears to be a slapdash effort to arbitrarily absorb a large number of immigrants as quickly as possible. Although this would undoubtedly increase the number of Democratic voters in the future, it fails to make humanitarian considerations paramount. In addition, Mr. Clinton's proposal would very likely motivate future illegal immigration.
The United States should instead give visas to immigrants who arrived in the United States when their native countries were ruled by repressive regimes, or when violence had reached epidemic proportions. This would adequately tailor policy to humanitarian concerns and would also help the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) streamline the process of granting visas. Rather than look at each asylum case individually, the INS could grant residency to all immigrants who were likely fleeing turmoil or political persecution.
To be fair, one of the president's proposals attempts to address this problem but again, Mr. Clinton's recommendation is poorly crafted. The president would like to give visas to all El Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Liberians and Haitians who have been living in the country since 1995. But this date was arbitrarily selected. The bloody political strife that sent El Salvadorians seeking asylum during the 1980s was well over by 1995, for example. In addition, the president's plan fails to fold in immigrants from a number of other countries who deserve special recognition for humanitarian reasons, such as Sierra Leone, Sudan, Kosovo, Bosnia, etc.
The president's sloppy plan suggests Mr. Clinton was more concerned with favoring the Democratic Party than favoring the immigrants most in need of America's generosity. Congress also needs to begin tailoring its own immigration legislation to humanitarian concerns when it comes back. Before partisan bickering escalates another octave, Mr. Clinton and lawmakers ought to come up with compassionate and logical legislation.

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