THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:
I am pleased to submit for your immediate consideration and enactment the "Immigration Reform Transition Act of 1997," which is accompanied by a section-by-section analysis. This legislative proposal is designed to ensure that the complete transition to the new "cancellation of removal" (formerly "suspension of deportation") provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA; Public Law 104-208) can be accomplished in a fair and equitable manner consistent with our law enforcement needs and foreign policy interests.
This legislative proposal would aid the transition to IIRIRA's new cancellation of removal rules and prevent the unfairness of applying those rules to cases pending before April 1, 1997, the effective date of the new rules. It would also recognize the special circumstances of certain Central Americans who entered the United States in the 1980s in response to civil war and political persecution. The Nicaraguan Review Program, under successive Administrations from 1985 to 1995, protected roughly 40,000 Nicaraguans from deportation while their cases were under review. During this time the American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh (ABC) litigation resulted in a 1990 court settlement, which protected roughly 190,000 Salvadorans and 50,000 Guatemalans. Other Central Americans have been unable to obtain a decision on their asylum applications for many years. Absent this legislative proposal, many of these individuals would be denied protection from deportation under IIRIRA's new cancellation of removal rules. Such a result would unduly harm stable families and communities here in the United States and undermine our strong interests in facilitating the development of peace and democracy in Central America.
This legislative proposal would delay the effect of IIRIRA's new provisions so that immigration cases pending before April 1, 1997, will continue to be considered and decided under the old suspension of deportation rules as they existed prior to that date. IIRIRA's new cancellation of removal rules would generally apply to cases commenced on or after April 1, 1997. This proposal dictates no particular outcome of any case. Every application for suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal must still be considered on a case-by-case basis. The proposal simply restores a fair opportunity to those whose cases have long been in the system or have other demonstrable equities.
In addition to continuing to apply the old standards to old cases, this legislative proposal would exempt such cases from IIRIRA's annual cap of 4,000 cancellations of removal. It would also exempt from the cap cases of battered spouses and children who otherwise receive such cancellation.
The proposal also guarantees that the cancellation of removal proceedings of certain individuals covered by the 1990 ABC litigation settlement and certain other Central Americans with long-pending asylum claims will be governed by the pre-IIRIRA substantive standard of 7 years continuous physical presence and extreme hardship. It would further exempt those same individuals from IIRIRA's cap. Finally, individuals affected by the legislation whose time has lapsed for reopening their cases following a removal order would be granted 180 days in which to do so.
My Administration is committed to working with the Congress to enact this legislation. If, however, we are unsuccessful in this goal, I am prepared to examine any available administrative options for granting relief to this class of immigrants. These options could include a grant of Deferred Enforced Departure for certain classes of individuals who would qualify for relief from deportation under this legislative proposal. Prompt legislative action on my proposal would ensure a smooth transition to the full implementation of IIRIRA and prevent harsh and avoidable results.
I urge the Congress to give this legislative proposal prompt and favorable consideration.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE,
July 24, 1997.
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