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Groups Challenge Provisions of Alien Amnesty Law

March 9, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A class action suit filed on behalf of five illegal aliens Tuesday challenges provisions of the government’s amnesty program that would bar hundreds of aliens from obtaining legal residency.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks to block U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service rules concerning aliens who do not meet some of the requirements for legalization but whose illegal status was ″known to the government.″

INS rules under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 provide amnesty to aliens who lived illegally in the United States before Jan. 1, 1982 as well as to agricultural workers who can prove they lived in this country for at least 90 days in the year ended May 1, 1986.

A problem has arisen over individuals who arrived legally - with a visa - but who remained in the country illegally after the Jan. 1, 1982 cutoff date, according to Debbi Sanders of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, one of the attorneys for the plantiffs.

In cases like these, the statute grants amnesty to those whose illegal status was ″known to the government.″

Volunteer agencies helping illegal aliens have sought to use Social Security and Internal Revenue Service forms to prove that aliens in this category were known.

The INS, however, maintained that ″known to the government″ meant known to the INS, Sanders said, noting that this difference of interpretation disqualified hundreds of illegals.

Intrepretation of those four words is the basis for the suit filed by the lawyers’ committee, the New York American Civil Liberties Union, the Hispanic National Bar Association and a Washington law firm.

It if filed on behalf of five unidentified aliens and four volunteer agencies: Ayunda Inc., the Ethopian Community Center, the Latin American Youth Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

″I think the government has taken too narrow of view of what the statute calls for,″ said Doris Meissener, acting immigration commissioner 1981-82. ″It is quite clear that the government is much more than INS.″

INS Spokesman Duke Austin said, ″basically ‘known to the government,’ means known to us ... and known that there was an illegal status.″

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