By Ray O’Hanlon
Immigration provision 245i, the possible ticket to legal status for thousands of undocumented Irish in the U.S., is getting yet another chance in Congress.
Stating that it would help reunite families and strengthen businesses, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle last week introduced a bill, the United Families Act, 2002, that would allow immigrants to remain in the United States while waiting to become permanent residents.
The move was immediately backed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, who currently chairs the Senate Sub-Committee on Immigration, and Sen. Chris Dodd.
“By extending 245i, long-time, taxpaying immigrants who are contributing to our society will be able to remain in this country while they wait for their green card,” Daschle said in a statement.
“This bill provides a genuine opportunity for families to remain together while a member applies for permanent residence. It improves the immigration process without in any way weakening our national or border security. It’s good for families, for businesses and for America.”
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The Senate move follows a recent scrapping of plans in that body to include an earlier House-inspired extension of 245i in the just approved border security bill.
Kennedy considered the revival plan to be too restrictive, particularly in terms of the time that would have been allowed individuals to apply for relief under 245i.
Irish immigration advocates in immigration advice centers around the county agreed with this view.
The new 245i bill deletes the restrictive deadlines of the previous
bill and proposes to extend the application filing date for permanent residency to April 30, 2003.
“My colleagues and I look forward to working on a bipartisan basis with our Republican colleagues in the Senate and House to pass this extension soon,” Daschle said.
Kennedy also spoke in support of the new bill.
“As we work to respond to the security issues before us, we can’t lose sight of the other immigration issues that are still a priority,” Kennedy said. “This legislation extends section 245i, a vital provision of U.S. immigration law which allows individuals who already legally qualify for permanent residency to process their applications in the United States, without returning to their home countries.”
A Kennedy spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, said it was too soon to tell when the new bill might come up for mark-up and a vote in the Senate.