I am pleased to join more than 100 of my colleagues as a cosponsor of the Central American and Caribbean Refugee Adjustment Act (H.R. 36), which would amend the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act to promote equity for refugees from all Central American countries.
It is important for Congress to provide equitable application of Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) permanent residency requirements to all Central American refugees who fled their native lands to the United States. This legislation accomplishes this goal. Current immigration law is biased against immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, and Rep. Guttierez's measure would correct this imbalance.
I support this legislation because until it is passed, refugees from these countries will continue to have legal difficulties. Even after they prove to the INS that they will suffer "extreme hardship" if they are deported, they will lack official U.S. resident status. In 1997, Congress passed a measure allowing Nicaraguans and Cubans who entered America before December 1995 to apply for status as permanent residents, a step on the way to naturalization and U.S. citizenship. We should extend this policy to other Central American refugees.
We must ensure that our national immigration debate is framed by our nation's rich tradition of welcoming immigrants from all corners of the globe and by the immigrant heritage that we all share. San Francisco, the district I represent, is blessed with a diverse immigrant population and we celebrate that diversity. Our nation's laws should do the same.
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