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A New Amnesty? Congressional Reaction To Labor's Proposal


Jennifer Wipf: 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:

and the full text of the resolution 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 early 1990's;

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 Congress.

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 applications.

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 Democrat.

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.

(See   )    and not wait for an amnesty whose prospects are extremely doubtful.

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 of years.

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 immediate amnesty.

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 claim.

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 AFL-CIO's proposal?

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 Workers."

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:


Jennifer Wipf: If you want to ask general immigration questions feel free to stay in chat with me, your guide to this site after this special chat.

Many of you are asking for serious legal advice, though, and that can only be given when you hire an attorney. Carl Shusterman gives phone consultations for a fee. 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 leave now.

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:

while the Senate bill may be found at:

Good night :) and we look forward to chatting with you again next Monday.

Jennifer Wipf: Good night Carl. We look forward to it also.

Click Here for a quick & easy FAQ style recap


Remember to follow-up with these popular and informative articles:

Amnesty 2000 compiled by Carl Shusterman, Esq.

Immigration Advocacy compiled by your immigration guides at Born Abroad

Daily Immigration Headlines at Born Abroad

and you may also be interested in:  Human Rights at Born Abroad, the most comprehensive web site on human rights around the world.                                                                           

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