In Defense of Immigrant Rights

Coordinadora '96, the network that organized the first annual Latino march on Washington, D.C. last year, is objecting to a new federal law that will drastically alter the process by which immigrants can attain legal citizenship. To combat the dire effects of the 1996 Immigration and Nationality Act -- scheduled for implementation on April 1 -- the group is planning to put pressure on the national legislature and international governments, which are concerned about the social and economic repercussions of the law; and to continue community-based mobilization, advocacy and education."The bad news is that this law is a frontal attack on some of the basic rights of immigrants who are here legally or have been attempting to adjust their status through legal means," said Juan Jose Gutierrez, one of Coordinadora '96's spokespersons. "The good news is that we are seeing thousands of people who are coming forward to remedy their legal status and who are becoming active, conscious citizens, despite continued anti-immigrant rhetoric."Included in the new law are harsh punishments for visa overstays. For instance, anyone who stays beyond the period of authorized stay, will have their visa automatically voided. In addition, anyone who remains in the U.S. unlawfully beyond September 27 (and leave the U.S.) will be barred from re-entering the U.S. for three years. Those who remain in the U.S. unlawfully beyond March 31, 1998, (and leave the U.S.) will be barred from re-entering for 10 years.Also included in the new law is a "wealth test" which will prevent families from reuniting, whereby a sponsor of a family member will be required to sign an affidavit proving that she or he will support the immigrating family member at 125 per cent of the official poverty level (approximately $19,700 for a family of four).For more information, contact Juan Jose Gutierrez at 213-286-8472 x24 or Meredith Brown at 213-268-8472 x15.

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