WASHINGTON (October 21, 1998) -- Congressional action on behalf of Haitians and agricultural guest workers in the waning hours of this year's session won acclaim from the chairman of the Bishops' Migration Committee today.
Bishop John S. Cummins of Oakland (CA) praised the enactment of legislation which will allow about 50,000 Haitian nationals who fled to the United States in the early 1990s to remain here without the fear of being returned to Haiti. He also expressed his happiness that legislation to create a new agricultural guest worker program had been rejected.
"Many of those [Haitians] benefitting from this action fled persecution in their homeland and have begun new lives here in the United States," said Bishop Cummins. "They have started families and have contributed to their local communities. With enactment of this legislation, this group of Haitians can finally rest in the knowledge that they will not face removal back to Haiti."
The defeated legislation which would have created a new agricultural guest worker program failed to provide "adequate housing or wages for either foreign or domestic agricultural workers, and would have displaced agricultural workers currently in the United States," according to Bishop Cummins.
In addition to applauding these specific legislative actions, Bishop Cummins generally noted a more positive environment among policymakers regarding immigration issues in the current session of Congress.
"Our policymakers have also generally refrained from using our immigrant brothers and sisters as scapegoats for domestic problems, and in some cases, recognized their positive contributions to our country. In the months and years ahead, we will continue to urge them and all persons of good will to uphold the human dignity and human rights of the immigrant, the stranger among us."