November 2002, Volume 9, Number 11
245(i). Congress abandoned efforts to approve 245(i), which allows foreigners in the US illegally when their immigration visas become available to pay a fine and adjust their status without returning to their countries of origin. This is important because, since 1996, foreigners illegally in the US for more than six months are barred from legal re-entry for at least three years.
In early 2001, after the 245(i) program was resurrected for a few months under legislation enacted at the end of the Clinton administration, President Bush sought to extend it as a matter of fairness to some would-be immigrants who had missed the deadline. The House approved an extension, 336 to 43, in May 2001 and the Senate approved its version on September 6, 2001. The House re-approved 245(i) in March 2002, on a 275-137 vote, but the Senate did not act.
Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-MO), introduced the Earned Legalization and Family Reunification Act (H.R. 5600) in October 2002 to legalize the residence of foreigners who had been physically present in the United States for at least five years and who had worked for at least two years of that time. They would also have to demonstrate some knowledge of English and pass a federal security check. H.R. 5600 would provide adjustment of status to the spouses and children of those eligible for legalization, and give them work authorization while their family unification applications are pending. It would also make more visas available for family-based immigrants arriving in the future.
The Reward Work Coalition, led by the Service Employees International Union, has been organizing rallies and sending postcards to Congress in support of 245(i) and legalization. On October 9, 2002, several thousand people demonstrated in Washington DC to cap a "week of action" in favor of 245(i) and legalization; they delivered a million postcards in favor of legalization.
Integration. Some 889,000 immigrants naturalized in 2000, including 300,000 in California. The 2000 census reported that 39 percent of California's nine million foreign-born residents were naturalized US citizens.
The Hispanic population of the US was 15 million in 1980; 22 million in 1990; and 35 million in 2000. It is projected to be 56 million in 2010, and 70 million by 2020, including immigrants and children of immigrants, and citizens and non-citizens. However, Hispanics cast only five to six percent of the votes in 2000, and are expected to cast seven to eight percent in 2002; Hispanics cast four percent of the vote in 1988 and five percent in 1996. In California, Hispanics cast 11 percent of votes in 1994, and 14 percent in 2000.
Lewiston, Maine, which has 36,000 residents and is Maine's second-largest city, has 1,000 Somali refugees, many of whom were first re-settled in Atlanta. The mayor in an October 2002 letter noted that the influx of Somalis, most of whom no longer receive federal refugee resettlement assistance, has strained the city's finances and services. There are 415 Somali adults; about half are employed. Most were originally resettled in Atlanta, and later moved to Lewiston.
The federal Voting Rights Act requires that foreign-language ballots be made available when the census shows that more than 10,000 people, or more than five percent of the voting-age population, in a single language group in a defined area, do not speak English well. In New York City, demonstrators protested that the Human Resources Administration was not translating Food Stamp eligibility information into Spanish and other languages.
The US Department of Education provides $40 million a year to 66 parent centers that have translators for non-English speaking parents who want to talk to their child's teachers. The $26 billion-a-year federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 requires more testing in public schools, allows parents to transfer children to better-performing public or charter schools, and gives school districts more flexibility in using federal money and puts new emphasis on reading.
Six states allow voters to register on election day and vote right away. Proposition 52 would make California the seventh state to allow same-day registration and voting. Rob McKay, publisher of Mother Jones magazine, is supporting Proposition 52. Critics warn it could lead to voter fraud, since California election law does not require voters to show identification when they show up at the polls.
Welfare. The 1996 welfare reform eliminated a 60-year-old federal guarantee of cash assistance for the poor and gave each state a lump sum of money, with broad discretion to run its own welfare program. Since then, the number of people on welfare has dropped by more than half, to 5.3 million. President Bush and Senate Democrats, who disagree on subsidies for child care and on whether poor legal immigrants should be eligible for subsidized health care, may agree to simply extend the current Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for another three years.
The US government enacts 13 major appropriations bills each year. When there is no budget approved by October 1, the date the new fiscal year begins, the federal government continues to operate with "continuing resolutions" or "CRs." As of October 2002, most of the major appropriations bills had not been approved. The US government ran a $159 billion deficit in FY02, a sharp reversal from the $127 billion surplus in FY01.
Nick Anderson, "Push to Ease Immigration Rules Is Finished for Now," Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2002. Pam Belluck, "Mixed Welcome as Somalis Settle in a Maine City," New York Times, October 15, 2002.