- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

Members of Congress from New York have written a bill to grant permanent legal status to illegal aliens whose spouse or parent was killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The bill would apply both to those who were here illegally at the time of the attacks and those here legally as family members of someone with a work or student visa.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, said that with the four-year observance of the attacks looming, it is time to take care of people who consider themselves in a legal limbo.

“We are talking about a small number of people who have suffered the loss of a father, mother, husband or wife on 9/11,” she said. “For us to allow their deportation, regardless of their status, would be wrong. I can’t believe the Congress would let that happen.”

She filed the bill before Congress began its summer recess, and announced it yesterday.

Congress included a temporary solution in the Patriot Act, allowing children and spouses of those here legally on September 11 to stay for one year. Since then, the administration has not pressed for those who remain to be deported, Mrs. Maloney said.

The cause has bipartisan support in New York, having been endorsed in 2003 by Gov. George E. Pataki and, according to backers, by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. But its prospects are not clear in Congress, where most members have distanced themselves recently from anything that could be construed as amnesty for illegal aliens.

The aliens could ask Congress to pass private bills on a case-by-case basis, but Congress rarely passes such measures.

Under the new bill, people would be eligible for permanent legal residence if they had been officially recognized by the compensation fund set up for families of the victims. A ruling by that fund’s special master, Kenneth Feinberg, opened the fund to illegal aliens.

Backers said families who were awarded money from the fund might be targets for kidnapping if they were deported to their home countries in Latin America. Payments to victims averaged about $2 million.

The bill’s backers don’t know how many people would be eligible from the group of those who were here legally at the time of the attacks. But lawyers say they have identified about 30 people who were here illegally and are seeking legalization.

“It’s 30 people, and without this legislation they will disappear, and how horrible would it be if one of the families of our 9/11 victims were deported, were harmed because of that action?” said Debra Brown Steinberg, a lawyer who represents some of the illegal aliens pro bono.

Mrs. Maloney introduced a similar bill in 2003, though that version only applied to those here legally at the time of the attacks. It, and similar bills in the Senate, died for lack of action in the two chambers’ Judiciary committees.

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