Congressional negotiators reached a last-minute agreement on allowing hundreds of thousands of more immigrants into the country, particularly those with new job skills.
The last hurdles to the legislation were removed Thursday night when House and Senate sponsors of competing bills agreed to establish special visas for foreign investors who start businesses in depressed rural and urban areas and to provide a temporary legal haven for Salvadorans fleeing violence.The bargainers agreed to split the difference between the two bills on just how much to raise the current quotas.
"It's a good blend," said Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., who had threatened to block passage if more emphasis wasn't put on screening applicants more for criminal records and needed skills and deporting illegal immigrants.
He predicted the Senate would soon pass the legislation. Aides to House sponsors of the measure said the House would pass it before Congress adjourns this weekend.
Current law allows some 490,000 foreigners to immigrate to the United States each year but requires that 90 percent of them have close relatives here who already have established U.S. citizenship.
Only 54,000 so-called "classic" immigrants seeking job opportunities but with no relatives can be let in annually.
Under the compromise, the total cap would rise to 700,000 immigrants a year from 1992 through 1994 and fall back to 675,000 from 1995 on. The existing preferences for immigrants with needed professional, job or educational skills would increase to 140,000.
But the agreement also raises the influx of immigrants allowed strictly to reunite families from 436,000 a year now to 505,000 annually over the next three years, falling to 480,000 in 1995.
In other congressional action:
- Congress began a gradual winding down of U.S. support for covert conflicts in the Third World with an intelligence bill that curbs money flowing to rebels in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Angola.
On a voice vote, the House on Wednesday gave its endorsement to the compromise bill, which provides roughly $30 billion for intelligence activities around the globe and institutes reforms growing out of the Iran-Contra affair. The Senate followed suit early Thursday, sending the bill to President Bush.
- Congress moved quickly to assure that consumers learn more from nutrition labels about what they eat. The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill on requiring food manufacturers to list on their labels the amount of nutrients, calories, fat and salt for most packaged foods.
- Congress sent the president a bill calling for $287 million in new spending to encourage volunteerism and community service, turning aside complaints about the cost. Bush is expected to sign the legislation.
- A bill awaiting the president's signature will compel colleges and universities to tell students how many major crimes are committed on campus.