By Ray O’Hanlon
Sen. Edward Kennedy is moving this week to introduce a Senate version of a House bill backing an extension of immigration provision 245i.
The Senate move comes as legislators returned to Washington after the congressional spring break.
With the resumption of business on Capitol Hill, backers of 245i are burning up the phone lines in an effort to secure passage of the existing House bill proposing a six-month extension to the provision, which is due to expire on Monday, April 30.
"This bill needs to go quickly and we are working hard across party lines," Cecelia Prewett, communications director for Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, said.
McCarthy, a Democrat, along with GOP Rep. Peter King, are the primary sponsors of the bill, H.R. 1242, in the House of Representatives.
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245i, given a renewed but temporary lease on life by President Clinton last December, allows undocumented immigrants to apply for permanent residence without having to leave the country and face the likelihood of being banned from the U.S for up to 10 years for being illegal in the first place.
H.R. 1242 proposes to extend the life of 245i until Oct. 31 of this year.
"We’re pulling out all the stops at this stage," said Kevin Fogarty, a spokesman for King.
According to McCarthy’s office, the Long Island representative is concentrating her efforts on fellow Democrats, while King is focusing on his GOP colleagues in the House.
"Congresswoman McCarthy is contacting [House Minority Leader] Congressman Richard Gephardt and Democrats on the judiciary committee," Prewett said.
At this juncture, King and McCarthy are pushing to add their bill to the House "suspension calendar" in the next few days. Items included in the calendar are generally viewed as being non-controversial and passage through the House tends to be fast and pro-forma.
Meanwhile, the New York City Central Labor Council, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, has warned undocumented immigrants seeking legality under 245i to be on the watch for scam artists.
Council president Dan McLaughlin warned that immigrants had to be wary "of the many scam artists who make false promises and steal their money."
And Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is urging eligible immigrants to use the last few days before April 30 to apply for legal status under 245i.
"It is important to know that this is not an amnesty," she said in a statement. "Not every foreign national is eligible to apply for permanent residency status. Eligibility under 245i is based on sponsorship by a family member or potential employer."
Clinton urged eligible immigrants to file their paperwork by next Monday’s deadline.
Clinton, together with fellow New York Senator, Charles Schumer, is expected to support a 245i bill out of Kennedy’s office, but Kennedy’s most important initial task will be to find a GOP co-sponsor.