Friday, March 01, 2002

Saturday February 23 10:12 AM EST
Ruling Revives Amnesty Program
A federal judge has breathed new life into one of the nation's longest-running lawsuits, increasing the likelihood that thousands of undocumented immigrants around the country will be able to become lawful U.S. residents. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton in Sacramento could end 16 years of legal limbo for the immigrants, many of whom were rejected for residency under the 1986 federal amnesty program because they had temporarily left the United States in previous years.

"It's a fantastic decision," said the plaintiffs' lead lawyer, Peter A. Schey of the Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. "It will open the door to tens of thousands" of long-term undocumented immigrants to become legal residents. Schey said he would file a motion by March 4 seeking to permanently bar the Immigration and Naturalization Service from attempting to prevent thousands of immigrants covered by the legal decision from applying for lawful permanent residency.

An INS spokesman said the agency would have no comment until its attorneys had thoroughly reviewed the ruling, which Karlton filed without fanfare Feb. 15.

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