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The Impact of Terrorism on the Prospect of 245(i) Renewal and Possible Amnesty
by Jose Latour

First of all, a disclaimer: the idea for today's topic comes directly from a new National Review article on the very subject. The article, by John J. Miller, appears in the October 15 [that is the correct date] edition of the publication. Despite its decidedly conservative point of view, it is perhaps the most intelligent article written to date on the subject of post-September-11th immigration reality. The article was sent to me by a dear friend who knows how I am wrestling with the "what now?" issues regarding immigration and I wish I could freely excerpt as I so often do, but I can't for copyright reasons. Pick up the National Review, it is worth a read just for this one article.

Sometimes in stating the obvious, we are given a fresh perspective, and that's what the article did. Although I assume it is simply one of a million true coincidences (if you believe in coincidences at all), the article pointed out that the proposed 245(i) extension was to be voted upon by the House of Representatives on September 11th. The one quote I simply must share:

"This is another example of how official Washington winks at illegal immigration, and it would have won easy approval but for the emergency evacuation of the House Chamber."

I know, I know, you are rushing out to buy the magazine... (-: Seriously, though, guys, it really is a worthwhile read, despite its point of view. As a liberal Republican (kind of oxymoronic, eh, like a jumbo shrimp?), I often grumble at this publication, but the quality of its reporting really is superb.

In the article, the author discusses the September 11th events as pretty much the final nail in the coffin of amnesty, a program characterized as rewarding illegal immigration. The politics of amnesty are complex and I will spare you my usual tirade regarding the Scam-A-Rama known as "CSS" and "LULAC." Unlike the author, however, I am not so sure that terrorism will necessarily mean that future amnesties will not be considered. But first let's discuss the word. "Amnesty" is defined as follows in the The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition:

A general pardon granted by a government, especially for political offenses.

Fair enough, but we know that in reality we use the word to go beyond the scope of political offenses and on to everything from immigration to parking tickets to you name it. It means "you are forgiven," the official benediction from the sanctioning body has been bestowed upon you, and, you lucky so-and-so, you don't have to pay the piper after all. Unfortunately, this liberal, real world interpretation of the word translates similarly into Spanish. In the Spanish language media, any form of ameliorative relief seems to be described as an "amnesty." For example, all those folks who have overstayed their time in the U.S. and would rely upon 245(i) to adjust are receiving the benefit of an "amnesty" particular to their need. Very different than what you and I consider to be an amnesty, and hence the chaos spreads like wildfire.

If we can keep our terminology straight, here's what I think:

245(i) - I believe that this provision isn't about anyone winking at illegal immigration. I believe it is about creating a humane and fair mechanism through which otherwise law-abiding, taxpaying, decent people can recover from what is oftentimes a technical lapse in status, often as a result of an employer's negligence. I think that when the dust has settled -- a term which will never again mean the same thing -- Congress will see that the need for 245(i) is and will be very much there. The nation simply has nothing to lose and everything to gain: persons who already have valid family or employment relationships in place are not going to leave the U.S. if 245(i) keeps them from the final step of acquiring residency. If, however, they are afforded an opportunity to pay a fine to our federal tax coffers, not only does the U.S. receive needed revenues for immigration administration, but these same taxpayers are allowed to continue their positive contribution to American society. Since 245(i) by definition is only a viable solution to those who already have the required family or employer ties, it does not facilitate or encourage future overstays.

Amnesty - the author concludes that while there may yet be a bona fide amnesty for farm workers, a general immigration amnesty affecting all foreigners is not in the cards. I agree. If you look at the historical intended beneficiaries of the 1980's amnesty, they were mainly disenfranchised laborers doing what we Americans didn't feel like doing: picking tomatoes, harvesting grapes, etc. The law was intended to help these farm laborers, mostly from Mexico, Haiti, Jamaica, and other neighboring nations. The law was for folks who were here, working hard, and didn't have a voice. It was NOT for wealthy South Americans and Europeans arriving in Miami International and being whisked off in limos to downtown offices where shady attorneys had them sign sworn statements of years of historical U.S. residency before the ink of their first U.S. admission stamp had dried. I've told you before and I'll tell you again: in my 11 years of private immigration practice, I have met one legitimate LULAC/CSS Amnesty recipient, and about a thousand people who filed fraudulent applications, some denied, many approved. I think political pressure, especially from President Fox in Mexico, will lead to another migrant worker amnesty. Hopefully, we can keep a tight rein on it and make sure it does not lead to another fiasco like LULAC and CSS.

About The Author

Jose Latour is the founding partner of Jose E. Latour and Associates, P.A., a Gainesville, Florida based business immigration practice working primarily with the IT industry and foreign investors. JELPA is an A/V rated firm whose web site,, is one of the Internet’s most visited immigration sites. The firm was named “ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP TEN INTERNET/VIRTUAL COMPANIES” in the 1999 Inc. Magazine and Cisco Systems “Growing with Technology Awards.” Mr. Latour served as a U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officer in Mexico and Africa before entering private practice and today divides his time between his law practice, writing, flying, and his music.