Amnesty Applicants Embark on National Fasting Campaign

CONTACT: Selena Walsh
Director of Policy and Communications
(202) 408-0060

WASHINGTON--On Tuesday, November 10, over a hundred members of the "Late Amnesty" class will begin a nationwide fast in attempt to gain the attention of the White House and the Department of Justice over an issue that has remained unresolved for almost a decade.

The Members of the late amnesty class have organized several days of fasting in cities across the US. The first day of fasting will be a 24 hour fast held in Los Angeles, California in front of LA City Hall at 200 North Main Street. Applicants and their supporters will begin fasting on November 9 at midnight and end on November 10 at midnight. The next fast will be a 48 hour fast scheduled for November 14th and 15th, the fasts will continue to increase in duration as it makes its way across the nation ultimately arriving in Washington. The fast which begins the national call to action in LA will then expand to the following cities: San Jose, CA; Seattle, WA; Houston, TX; New Jersey, and Washington, DC.

The term "Late Amnesty" refers to a group of individuals who were eligible to apply for the amnesty program under the Immigrant Reform and Control Act (IRCA), signed by President Reagan in 1986, but were wrongfully turned away by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials. IRCA directed the Attorney General to establish a window in which the INS would accept applications, the INS established eligibility criteria according to the statue. Just prior to the application deadline the INS realized they had inaccurately interpreted the statue and had therefore denied hundreds of eligible applicants from ever applying for the amnesty program.

Several suits were filed by the applicants, including LULAC vs. INS seeking to force the INS to process the applications of the people wrongfully turned away. The courts ruled in favor of the applicants, recognizing the misinterpretation of the statute and protected all applicants by allowing them to legally reside and work in the US until this matter was resolved. The INS kept appealing to higher courts on the basis that the courts did not have the authority to force the INS to provide a remedy. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court which ruled that the lower courts did have the authority in question, and sent the case back down to the lower courts; this appeal tactic took ten years.

At this time, the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1996. In it was a little known provision called Section 377, which retroactively stripped the courts from jurisdiction over the class members. As a result three of the four major suits have been thrown out of court.

After 16 years of investing in this country, patiently waiting for a resolution, and in the interim raising their families, paying taxes, and buying homes; the majority of class members have been stripped of their work permits and reverted to undocumented status. Class Members are calling on the White House to direct the INS to simply process the applications.

If the White House continues to remain stagnant on this issue the consequences for the local economies will be staggering. We can expect to see thousands of applicants suddenly stop paying their taxes, defaulting on mortgages, not paying electric bills, and swelling the welfare roles with their dependent US citizen children.

Despite the obvious hardship, revenue loss, and increases in dependence on public assistance that reverting this population to undocumented status will cause, the White House has done nothing to prevent the INS from aggressively moving forward to force this population underground. With no other option left, the applicants are calling for a fast to portray the dire situation that they and their families are in, and to alert the American people of the inhumane actions taken by their government.

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