A New Amnesty?
Congressional Reaction To Labor's Proposal
Welcome everyone. In a moment, attorney Carl Shusterman will join us to host our chat on
the new proposed amnesty. Please remember that this dialogue is of a general nature and
cannot be construed as legal advice.
Here he is now. Good evening Carl :)
Carl Shusterman: Good evening, Jennifer and everyone. How are you?
Jennifer Wipf: We're great! Here's your first question tonight:
Question #1: Please tell us about the
proposed amnesty bill and who might qualify?
Carl Shusterman: America's largest
labor federation proposed an amnesty for illegal immigrants in the year 2000, an end to the employer
sanctions programs, which the federation had vigorously supported in 1986, and a
restoration of benefits that were unfairly taken away from immigrant families in 1996. The
AFL/CIO's press release can be found at:
Although the AFL/CIO called for a general amnesty, they advocated an immediate
legalization program for the following three groups:
1) 500,000 Central Americans and Haitians who fled their countries during the 1980's and
2) 350,000 Late Amnesty filers; and
3) 10,000 Liberians who fled to the United States during the civil war in their country.
The AFL-CIO's proposal has not reached the stage where a bill has been introduced in
Question #2: How would people go about
applying for such an amnesty?
Carl Shusterman: Since the AFL-CIO's proposal has not been introduced as
a bill, it is impossible at this time to guess who would qualify for amnesty and how the
application process would work.
In the 1986 amnesty, our law firm successfully obtained green cards for hundreds of
individuals who were illegally residing in the United States.
The 1986 law applied to those who had entered the United States without inspection,
entered legally but overstayed their visas, or violated their status in the United States.
The 1986 law also required persons to show that they had become illegal in the United
States approximately 5 years before the law went into effect.
Hundreds of amnesty offices were established around the country to process the
The law required that persons apply for temporary residence and later apply for adjustment
of status to permanent resident. A second amnesty program allowed agricultural workers to
legalize their status under more lenient conditions.
In 1986, however, the Congress was controlled by the Democrats while the President was a
Republican. Today, the Congress is controlled by the Republicans while the President is a
Since this amnesty proposal comes from the labor unions, it is extremely doubtful that a
Republican Congress would take action on a proposal from one of the principal components
of the Democratic Party coalition.
However, should the Democrats gain control of the Congress this November, it is very
possible that Congress will approve some or all of the AFL-CIO's amnesty proposals.
Question #3: I am married to a man from
Mexico who does not have a status. He is here illegally. Should I try to put in an
application for him or should I wait for the amnesty and if so could you please tell me
what to save for proof of him being here as in pay stubs and what else?
Carl Shusterman: Assuming that you are a United States citizen, you
should apply for your husband.
Question #4: I'm here in the United
States on a visitor visa. My visa will expire in May 2000. Am I eligible for amnesty? Are
my children eligible to join me in US? They are in my home country at this time.
Carl Shusterman: As with the 1986 law, I would expect that if Congress
does pass an Amnesty Bill, it would only apply to persons who had been illegal in the
United States for several years.
Otherwise, Congress would be afraid of encouraging people to come on tourist visas to the
United States tomorrow and start working the next day in order to qualify for amnesty.
If you are interested in residing permanently in the United States, I suggest that you
check out the legal ways of doing so, at:
Question #5: Dear Mr. Shusterman. I
understand that an amnesty covers people illegally in the country such as EWI or out of
status. However, if enacted, how will this amnesty affect the people with cases of
political asylum pending (forever) and/or NACARA (sec.203) cases filed with INS?
Carl Shusterman: Persons can apply for asylum in the United States whether or not
they are legally present in this country.
I would not expect the filing of an application for asylum to impede one's chances for
gaining amnesty as long as the person has been illegally present for the required number
The situation is similar with regards to NACARA applicants. In fact, the NACARA applicants
are one of the three groups specifically targeted by the AFL-CIO's resolution for
Question #6: What kind of proof will be
asked for to show one is eligible for amnesty?
Carl Shusterman: Despite what many people believe, during the 1986
amnesty, we were able to prove that our clients had the required residence in the United
States, by submitting their tax returns.
Other official documents like rent receipts, bank books, credit card receipts, insurance
policies, marriage certificates, birth certificates of children, school records, and work
records, are also good proof of residence.
Where INS will be skeptical is where applicants submit only affidavits to prove their
Question #7: If a person is Illegal how can
he/she have rent receipts, insurance policies etc.?????
Jennifer Wipf: Good Question.
Carl Shusterman: There is no requirement that landlords and insurance
companies check the legal status of their renters or policyholders.
Question #8: Dear Carl: As far as NACARA is
concerned the Eastern Europeans were left out in the cold. You have mentioned that one of
the immigrants groups covered are the Central American refugees from the 80's. How about
the Eastern Europeans, especially those covered by NACARA. Do you think they may have a
chance to be considered? After all, the law should protect equally all the beneficiaries.
Carl Shusterman: Hopefully, if an amnesty is enacted, all nationalities
from whatever part of the world, will be treated equally, as they were in 1986. The
AFL-CIO's resolution talks about Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Haitians in terms of an
immediate amnesty but does not discriminate against any group in terms of ethnic
background. It is probably safe to say, that there are a lot more illegal
Salvadorans in the US for example, than there are illegal Hungarians.
Also, in recent AFL-CIO organizing drives in Southern California, more Central Americans
than Eastern Europeans have been involved.
However, I hope that we will see more immigration legislation that applies to all persons
on an equal basis than laws which give favored treatment to specific nationalities.
Question #9: Who else is backing up the
Carl Shusterman: Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, the Chairwoman of
the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said that the Caucus members would "look forward
to working with the AFL-CIO and the business community to reform our immigration policy we
believe that these immigrants have made impressive contributions to our work force and to
our nation." However, the powers that be in Congress, namely Representative Lamar
Smith, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, issued a terse press release
in response to the AFL-CIO's resolution entitled "Union Bosses Sell Out
Question #10: As I understand it, in 1986
when amnesty was last declared there were a lot of people who had recently arrived in the
states who had given false affidavits and had got amnesty. I also understand that the INS
does not microscopically go through each application and on the whole grants amnesty to
all. Is this true?????
Carl Shusterman: Although there was some fraud in the Amnesty Program,
the great bulk of the fraud occurred in a program for Special Agricultural Workers. These
SAW's, as they were called, only had to demonstrate that they had worked in the field, for
a 90-day period. The Immigration Service investigated persons who signed hundreds of
affidavits for these farm workers, found many to be fraudulent, and brought both criminal
and deportation proceedings against many thousands of individuals. Even those who were
granted permanent residence often find that when they apply for citizenship, the INS
instead places them under deportation proceedings.
Question #11: Although there are no
guarantees, what do you think, or what is the general feeling amongst attorneys or
government that this amnesty will pass?
Carl Shusterman: Leaders of the current Congress have indicated that the
AFL-CIO's amnesty plan is dead on arrival.
Only a change in Congressional leadership following the November elections could breath
new life into this proposal.
Question #12: To speak of another amnesty situation,
is it true that CSS and LULAC will be heard by judges this month? And how would the new
amnesty affect those cases?
Carl Shusterman: On March 20, two weeks from today, an en banc panel of
eleven judges from the US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, will hear arguments in San
Francisco in the Catholic Social Services (CSS) case. Last year, a three judge panel of
the same Court ruled in a 2-1 decision that Congress, by enacting Section 377 of the 1996
immigration law, had foreclosed the possibility of the CSS late amnesty filers from
challenging the denial of their claims in Federal Court. For more information about CSS,
LULAC and the other late amnesty cases, see:
Oops. We have kept Mr. Shusterman on overtime again :)
It is time to say good night. The chat room will remain open for you to use, but Carl must
Carl Shusterman: Thank you for joining us and for your questions about
the proposed amnesty program.
Carl Shusterman: We will be updating you concerning future developments
on our free immigration newsletter - Shusterman's immigration update.
Please join us next Monday at 6 PM Pacific Time for a chat concerning the cap on H-1B
visas. We expect the cap to be reached within the next week or two and it is important to
know the procedures that will again be in place until H-1B visas become available.
In addition, we will be comparing and contrasting the two competing H-1B bills, that have
been introduced in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.
The bills may be accessed online. The House bill is at: