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Support builds for the legalization bill
Out of the Shadows
October 1, 2003
With the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, immigration
reform in America came to a halt. The emphasis
understandably shifted from inclusiveness to security and
the failures of the immigration service. For the estimated
six million illegal immigrants who are here to find work or
a better life, any hope for a guest worker program or an
easier time for their children was stalled as well. Only
now, two years later, is there some chance that Congress
might focus on needed immigration reform.
About 900 immigrant workers, some of them undocumented,
have been crossing the country by bus this past week to
tell their stories. Calling their trek the Immigrant
Workers Freedom Ride, they were motivated in part by the
brutal deaths of more than 145 migrants last year trying to cross the border. The workers also need
relief from employers who mistreat those in a shadow economy.
There are important new ideas in Congress about how to
improve the system. One, the "Ag Jobs" bill, would
streamline the nation's failing program for bringing in temporary farm workers.
The other, known as "The Dream Act," would help children of illegal aliens gain access to college and become legal.
The agricultural jobs bill is considered a model that could help offer ways to bring in guest
workers for other segments of the economy. The result of years of negotiations and
debate among unions, agricultural interests and workers' rights advocates, this bill now has wide support.
The Senate version is co-sponsored by Senator Edward Kennedy, a liberal Democrat, and
Senator Larry Craig, a conservative Republican.
More comprehensive reform should be the goal for an
inadequate system. But change on such a scale requires far
more debate. Meanwhile, Congress and the White House should start with proposals for agricultural workers
and immigrants' children that already have strong bipartisan support.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company