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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 24, 1997


Immigration Reform Transition Act of 1997

I am pleased to transmit to the Congress today the Immigration Reform Transition Act of 1997. This proposal reflects my commitment to balance firm controls against illegal immigration with common sense and compassion. It would provide a needed transition for individuals who apply for a form of immigration relief called suspension of deportation and who had immigration cases pending before the 1996 immigration law took effect. It would prevent the inherent unfairness of applying new rules to old cases.

This legislation also addresses the special circumstances of Central Americans who came to our country because of civil war and upheaval. Today, the remarkable progress in that region means that many of those people can return home. But as I assured the leaders of Central America when I visited the region in May, we want that to occur in a manner that avoids destabilizing the nations and economies of Central America, or imposing undue hardships on families. We also want to make sure that people who sought refuge in our country and who have contributed greatly to their local communities here in the United States are treated with fairness and dignity. To meet that commitment, this proposal ensures that certain groups of Central Americans whose cases were pending before the new immigration law took effect would be eligible to apply for suspension of deportation under the prior rules.

I am determined to do all I can to preserve our nation's tradition of generous legal immigration. But just as we are a nation of immigrants, we also are a nation of laws. To uphold the tradition of generous legal immigration and to do right by legal immigrants, we need to continue working to stop illegal immigration. The bill I am submitting today in no way diminishes the important enforcement objectives of the 1996 immigration bill, nor is it an amnesty or waiver program. Rather, it eases the transition to the new law for individuals who have put down deep roots in the United States -- and it advances our nation's strategic interest in promoting peace, prosperity and stability in Central America.

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