THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Little Rock, Arkansas) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 6, 1999
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
President Clinton Announces Legislation to Provide Parity for Central American and Haitian Migrants
Yesterday President Clinton transmitted to the Congress legislation that amends and expands the 1997 "Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act" (NACARA) and the "Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998" (HRIFA). The President's bill aims to ensure that migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Haiti all receive similar treatment under U.S. immigration law.
This bill would right the imbalances left by NACARA by offering the same protection to all Central Americans who have fled violence, human rights abuses and unrest. Under the legislation, those migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who have resided continuously in the United States since December 1, 1995, and do not have disqualifying characteristics such as certain criminal convictions -- the same requirements applicable to Nicaraguans and Cubans under NACARA -- would be eligible to become lawful permanent residents. It would provide similar treatment to Haitians who sought the protection of the United States in the early 1990s, following the overthrow of a democratically elected regime.
The enactment of this legislation would contribute to stability and development in these young and fragile democracies. While these countries have made important strides in recent years, they suffer from significant unemployment and underemployment. Repatriation of the nationals of these countries who have longstanding ties to the United States would only add to the economic and political challenges facing these governments. The United States has invested substantial resources in establishing peace and democracy in these societies, and this legislation will help carry out that important commitment.
"I am pleased that Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Christopher Smith introduced this legislation last night with broad bipartisan support," the President said. "I commend their leadership on this issue and the support of Representatives Carrie Meek, Benjamin Gilman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who joined with others as original co-sponsors of this important legislation."