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UConn Advance

New immigration law debated at forum
By Richard Veilleux
April 11, 1997

Russell G. Kauff and David Shapiro, aspiring attorneys attending the School of Law, know that law reviews and symposia live and die with timeliness, and success is often founded on presenting front-line issues.

Last Friday, the two got way ahead of the curve.

With "Lady Liberty's Doorstep: The Status and Implications of America's Immigration Law," Kauff and Shapiro brought to Hartford 10 panelists who rate among the nation's most knowledgeable lawyers and administrators when it comes to immigration laws. And all this three days before the new federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act took effect.

It was a master stroke of timing that was not lost on the panelists, several of whom made note of that fact.

One of the panelists, in fact, Peter J. Spiro, an associate professor of law at Hofstra University, pulled an article he had penned for the Georgetown Law Review so he could participate in Friday's conference and have his work appear in the Connecticut Law Review with his immigration law colleagues.

Other panelists included Lenni Beth Benson, a professor at New York Law School; Maria Isabel Medina, from the Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans; Margaret H. Taylor of the Wake Forest University School of Law; Michael A. Scaperlanda from the University of Oklahoma Law Center; Michael D. Patrick, a partner with Fragomen, Del Rey & Bernsen of New York City; Coast Guard Capt. Gary W. Palmer; and Bo Cooper, associate general counsel for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The event was moderated by Gerald L. Neuman, a professor at the Columbia University School of Law, and Paul Schmidt, chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals in Falls Church, Va.

Those appeals - or what may now be a lack thereof - is what concerned many of the panelists, especially Cooper.

"Easily, the most important and most controversial portion of the law is expedited removal. Immigrants who have documents obtained through unscrupulous means, or who have false documents, have lost any and all rights of review. This is a colossal change," Cooper said.

"What this means is that the immigrant who gets off a plane from Germany at JFK on Monday (April 7), without papers or with 'bad' papers, will be detained and sent to an administrative judge. There, after a 48-hour wait, each side has the right to be represented by a champion, before an arbiter, and, if a request for immigrant status is denied, they have the right to appeal for review.

"If that same person arrives at JFK Tuesday (April 8, when the law took effect), that person will be put back on the plane by INS officials, immediately, and sent home," Cooper said.

Asylum seekers hurt
For asylum seekers, who are leaving their country under duress and are therefore certain to have no paperwork, the change could be calamitous. And, he said, although the law includes a section called "the Credible Fear of Persecution Standard," it is not yet clear what the rules will be or even how immigrants will be told they have the right to make the claim.

For the panelists, that lack of interpretive judgments throughout the law is of paramount concern. While there will be a series of court challenges to the law - several already have been filed - they said immigrants who are denied entry into the United States before those decisions are made could face terrible hardships, including death and torture, if sent back to countries where they are considered enemies of the republic.

The law itself, which seriously restricts the rights and privilege accorded legal and illegal immigrants to the United States, became law last September. Since then, regulations to accompany the law have been written, making it possible to begin enforcement.

The act restricts the number of people who may immigrate to America, makes it easier for the government to deport immigrants, and imposes income tests on people who want to bring family members from abroad into the country to join them. It also eliminates nearly all rights to appeal for immigrants who apply for and are denied entry to the country.

"It's a sad case," said Benson, the New York Law School professor. But, she added, "As the public becomes more sensitized (to the horrors that bad decisions create), it will swing back. Regulations will be altered to provide more forms of relief."

All the presentations will appear in Issue 4 of the Connecticut Law Review, expected to be released sometime this summer, Shapiro said.

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