Residency bill for undocumented students is revived
Arizona Republic
Apr. 11, 2003 12:00 AM
Gannett News Service Sergio Bustos

WASHINGTON - Thousands of undocumented immigrants headed for college could be eligible to become legal U.S. residents under legislation a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced Thursday.

Reps. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, and Lucille Roybal-Allard and Howard Berman, both D-Calif., teamed up for the second year in a row to sponsor the Student Adjustment Act in the House. They said a similar version would soon be introduced in the Senate. The legislation failed in Congress last year.

This year, the House lawmakers said their bill has 15 Democratic and 15 Republican co-sponsors. Republicans hold a majority in both chambers.

But Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, predicted the bill would fail again.

"Let's call this what it is: It's amnesty for illegal aliens," said Krikorian, whose organization opposes the measure.

Cecilia Muņoz, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights group, said critics are confusing the issues. "This as an education issue, not an immigration issue," she said.

Thursday's news conference on Capitol Hill was part of a nationwide effort by immigration advocates and lawmakers to drum up support for the legislation, which potentially affects 60,000 students who do not hold green cards. News conferences, rallies and marches are planned this weekend in 30-plus states.

In Arizona, seven state lawmakers, all members of the Hispanic Caucus, held a news conference Thursday to support the federal legislation.

"The economics tell you we have 60,000 people in this country who could contribute better by existing more openly in this country," said State Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix.

Local supporters said they plan to have 3,000 people march Saturday in Phoenix in support of the bill. The march begins at 9 a.m. at Phoenix College and ends at the Capitol.

Under the bill, undocumented immigrants would be eligible for legal residency if: they are no older than 21 and are actively pursuing admission to college; they have a high school diploma or GED (General Educational Development) certificate; they have lived in the United States at least five years; and they have no criminal record.