Saturday, September 14, 2002

A Way to Help Survivors of September 11 Victims

Hi, Blog Sisters. I'm Ginger, I'm a thirty-something technical writer who lives in Houston and this is my first post to Blog Sisters.

Several jobs ago, I worked as a paralegal for a lawyer who practiced immigration law, and I keep up with immigration issues even though I no longer work in the field. I found out something yesterday about the immigration status of foreign survivors of September 11 victims that really bothered me, and I would like to ask the sisters to help.

It turns out that the blanket authorization for survivors to stay in the US regardless of how long they were supposed to be allowed to stay otherwise expired on Wednesday, the anniversary of the attacks. Technically, many of these survivors have no basis to remain in the US once their spouses were dead. The Attorney General has authorization to help them on an individual basis on the PATRIOT Act, but that requires a lot of effort to bring individual cases to his attention.

Senator Jon Corzine of New Jersey sponsored a bill in the Senate to help the survivors on a permanent basis, but it won't pass this year. Meanwhile, he has a bill in the Senate to extend the blanket stay for another year. If it passes both the Senate and the House before the end of the session (October 4), the President can sign it into law and the foreign survivors of September 11 victims will be able to remain in the United States legally.

It's particularly important that this bill be enacted into law now because of some provisions barring "overstayers" from reentering the United States. Under current immigration law, anyone who is in the United States without authorization, i.e., illegally, for six months is barred from reentering for three years. Anyone who is in the United States without authorization for a year is barred from reentering for ten years. That's without thinking about what might happen if they were deported instead of leaving voluntarily when the INS catches up with them.

I ask that anyone reading this talk to their senators about S.2845, which extends the legislative relief to which survivors of those killed last September are entitled under the PATRIOT Act for another year.

[If the link to the bill doesn't work, use the lookup from Senator Jon Corzine's homepage.]

S.2845 is currently sitting in committee, and the time for September 11 survivors is running out. If nothing is done for them, and that means retroactively fixing their status, they'll be deported. The status of those survivors who would have had to leave before now has already expired. While the world mourned their spouses and parents, they became illegal aliens.

If S.2845 is not enacted as a stopgap until the next Congress can offer all survivors of September 11 victims permanent legislative relief (as opposed to the discretionary relief they get under current law), these survivors may become illegal aliens. They may become subject to the three-year or ten-year reentry bar for overstaying. They may be deported.

If you think the survivors of those who died on September 11 deserve to stay in the United States, please write, email, or better, call your senators (find them here) and urge them to support S.2845. Contact your representative and ask him or her to sponsor and vote for a companion bill in the House. And spread the word.

Thanks for reading.

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