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Bishops Urge Added Time for Amnesty

February 18, 1988

The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, joining a growing debate on whether to tinker with the 9-month-old immigration amnesty program, has urged Congress to extend the program's May 4 deadline.

"Even if an additional 300,000 to 400,000 applicants could be reached by May 4, the size of the remaining illegal population in the country would be almost twice the number that could have been legalized," said Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, head of the conference's Committee on Migration, which sets American Catholic policy on immigration matters.

McCarrick, in a statement Tuesday, urged the nation's lawmakers to approve a 1-year amnesty extension, which is being sought under legislation sponsored by Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) 167772162 In addition to an extension, McCarrick urged Congress to ease concerns of immigrant families who fear they will be torn apart by differing eligibility standards, lower the cost of applications and ease demands for strict documentation.

McCarrick also called for an advancing of the amnesty eligibility date. Currently, illegal aliens who came to the United States before Jan. 1, 1982, are eligible for amnesty; the bishops would like to see the eligibility date advanced to Nov. 6, 1986--the date when Congress passed the immigration reform law.

Immigration and Naturalization Service officials have opposed the Schumer bill and all other amnesty extension efforts, claiming that any extension would blunt the possibility of a large rush of applicants at the end of the program.

So far, more than 1.3 million immigrants have applied for amnesty.

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