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Activists Show Support For Immigration Proposal

May 27, 2005
By MARK SPENCER, Courant Staff Writer

Sujitno and Dahlia Sajuti have lived in the United States for years, much of it spent pursuing their education and traversing the complicated landscape of immigration law.

Their studies have led to three master's degrees between them. Their experience with the immigration system has left them frustrated and still dreaming of getting the green cards that would allow them to work here legally.

On Thursday, they stood on the steps of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Hartford with two dozen other immigration activists to support a new proposal in Congress designed to overhaul a system that people on all sides of the issue say is broken.

The bipartisan bill, written by Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, combines stricter border controls, "guest worker" visas for current and prospective immigrants, the possibility of permanent status and increased enforcement against employers and workers who break the rules.

The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, introduced May 12, would fundamentally change the immigration system and has been drawing support from business, unions and immigration activists.

It parallels a proposal by President Bush by offering temporary visas for foreign workers to fill jobs Americans don't want, but goes further by providing a path to permanent residency and citizenship.

"This bill seeks to bring honest, hard-working immigrants out of the shadows, so that we can focus our enforcement resources on criminals and terrorists who pose threats to the country," said Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a co-sponsor, in a statement read at the event.

McCain and Kennedy have stressed the proposal does not provide amnesty. Undocumented workers currently in the United States who meet the requirements could get a visa good for six years, then apply for permanent status if they meet additional requirements.

Workers who enter the country could apply for a three-year visa, which could be renewed once.

There are an estimated 10 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, with an estimated 500,000 new arrivals each year.

Although once a phenomenon restricted to border states, illegal immigration and the concerns it brings have spread to states throughout the country, including Connecticut.

"This is an important effort to counter the anti-immigrant sentiment that has grown across the country," said Ann Pratt, an organizer with the Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice, which represents more than 40 religious groups in the Hartford area and organized Thursday's event.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton recently brought national attention to his city when he requested that state police enforce federal immigration law. Boughton said he wanted to stir the debate on failed immigration policies. He also inspired confrontations in Danbury and earlier this week in West Hartford between those who want stricter controls and immigration activists.

The prospects for the bill are unclear.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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