Local churches and charities need to redouble efforts to encourage immigrants to legalize their citizenship, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54 (D-Mass.) said in a Boston speech yesterday.
Kennedy, who spoke at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Legalization Center, said that illegal aliens still fear coming forward to apply for amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Kennedy's address comes one week after Boston supporters marked the act's first anniversary with a report on the failure of the government to reach out successfully into the illegal alien community.
Those groups working to naturalize illegal aliens said that one of the reason for a mistrust of the new law was the initial interpretation that anyone who left the U.S. after 1982 could not return with amnesty. Immigrant aid groups have said that this method of enforcing the law broke up many families.
Under a new interpretation, just effected last month, all undocumented persons who have lived in the country since 1982, with no more than a total 180 days spent outside of the country, can return with amnesty. This new, more liberal interpretation will permit several hundred aliens to file with the INS.
Kennedy explained that the new amnesty interpretation was created to "reach out to many of those whose status was uncertain and ought to be adjusted."
Until the recent interpretations, he said, "individuals have been exploited because of the uncertainty of their conditions."
Kennedy said more encouragement had to be given to those illegal immigrants who were not eager to apply for citizenship due to their fears of confusion and helplessness at arrival at the center.