Thursday, May 03, 2007

U.S. immigration bill divides boro
By Adam Pincus

Legislators and some Queens immigration activists expressed optimism that a comprehensive immigration reform bill would pass this year, but other borough advocates attending a town hall meeting this week in Long Island City were suspicious of elements within the legislation.

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said this congressional session provided the best opportunity to pass the STRIVE Act, which beefs up border and security enforcement as well as offering a pathway for the 12 million undocumented residents in the country to become citizens.

"I think if it is not done this year, it would be virtually impossible in 2008," he said, when the issue could become more controversial during a election campaign.

Crowley and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) spoke about the legislation Monday at a forum attended by about 140 people at LaGuardia Community College, at 31-10 Thompson Ave. in Long Island City, a day before thousands rallied in Manhattan Tuesday to advocate for the reforms.

Hours after the meeting, a coalition of immigrants rights groups called Immigrant Communities in Action, issued a statement against the STRIVE Act.

"We feel millions of people will be excluded," said Luna Ranjit, the executive director of the Long Island City Adhikaar, which advocates for Nepalis.

Queens is the most ethnically diverse counties in the country, home to tens of thousands of illegal immigrants.

Ciaran Staunton vice chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, said he was hopeful that a bill would pass this year to help the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish and other groups.

"We are hoping that this is the year," he said.


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