- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

House Democrats, lead by Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, yesterday introduced a bill to grant legal status to undocumented aliens who have lived and worked in the United States for some time.
Mr. Gephardt's plan, known as the "Earned Legalization and Family Reunification" legislation, would allow immigrants to apply for a green card which grants legal residence if they have resided in this country for at least five years, have a work history of at least two years and are able to pass a background check.
The plan would also expand the number of visas available to family members of current legal residents by removing spouses, children and parents from existing caps.
"It will allow our nation to direct our critical resources away from tracking down those who have come here to share the American dream and towards apprehending those who have come here to destroy that dream," the Missouri Democrat said yesterday.
But Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement there is no time to consider such a bill in his committee this year and Mr. Gephardt knows that.
"Representative Gephardt today shamelessly introduced immigration amnesty legislation, knowing it stands no chance of passage with only a few days remaining in this Congress," he said. "I'm disappointed Representative Gephardt saw this as an opportunity to needlessly raise the hopes of many by proposing legislation that, in reality, would only result in stuffing millions of amnesty petitions on the bottom of the INS' 5-million-case backlog pile."
On Wednesday, Mr. Gephardt joined a rally at Freedom Plaza composed of several labor unions and other groups that championed legalization. Mr. Gephardt told them if they want the bill to be passed, they will have to elect a Democratic majority to the House in November.
He challenged Republicans such as President Bush who have sought to redefine the party and reach out to Hispanics to live up to their promises. Both parties are vying for the votes of Hispanics, a fast-growing population.
Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would have granted legal status to illegal aliens who could prove a particular work or family relationship, but that bill stalled in the Senate, where legalization advocates said it was too narrow in scope.
Still, the issue splits the Republican Party. A majority of House Republicans voted against that bill the first time.
Led by Rep. George W. Gekas, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee, a handful of Republicans have introduced another bill that would cut overall immigration by eliminating certain categories of visas.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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