- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

The Senate will shelve limited amnesty for illegal aliens and instead proceed next week with hearings on a border-security bill without an amnesty provision attached.

The House has passed two border-security bills one with and one without the amnesty provision. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee, will hold hearings Wednesday on the version without the amnesty provision.

The amnesty proposal would extend section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act by allowing people who have overstayed their visas to pay fines and apply for permanent residency.

"We are proceeding with [Senate bill] 1749 245(i) is sort of on hold at this point so we can pursue 1749," said Mike Spahn, a spokesman for Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Kennedy also is a sponsor of border-security legislation, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, and Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican.

The sponsors want to move a bill however they can, and if that means postponing action on the amnesty provisions, they are willing to do that, Senate aides from both parties said.

"It must be done, and done as quickly as possible, with or without 245(i)," said Erik Hotmire, spokesman for Mr. Brownback.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, has held up both versions, arguing that the border-security bill needs more hearings and the chance for amendments and that the amnesty provision is bad policy.

Mr. Byrd did not return repeated calls to his office this week about his objections and to see whether Mr. Kennedy's planned hearing would satisfy his concerns.

The final decision on which legislation comes to the floor rests with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, who backs the amnesty provision.

"Senator Daschle believes that is an important reform. He also is generally supportive of the House-passed border security bill," said Molly Rowley, a spokeswoman for Mr. Daschle. "Exactly how those two important measures move forward in the Senate is open to some discussion, but Senator Daschle supports them both. He has said he would like to get both of them done the next work period."

The border-security bill would reduce the number of visas issued to visitors from countries that sponsor terrorism, tighten the requirements on those entering on student visas and require federal agencies to share information through a common computer system so they can better track immigrants' movements.

Three of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 terrorists attacks had overstayed their visas.

The amnesty provision would allow foreigners to apply for residency even though they have overstayed their entry visas.

To be eligible, the aliens would have to show they had a family relationship or certification that they held a job that wouldn't be filled by a current citizen or permanent resident. In exchange, the applicant would pay a $1,000 fine for overstaying a visa.

The provision's backers say it's a way to keep families together rather than sending one member back to his home country while he waits out the process. Opponents say U.S. consular officials in those home countries can do more thorough background checks than the embattled Immigration and Naturalization Service could in the United States.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide