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Ackerman, Liu blast Bush for new immigration policy

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U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) and Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) blasted President George W. Bush’s new illegal immigrant policy last Thursday as an election-year ploy that would eventually lead to deportations of Queens residents.

“It’s a ruse to try and garner votes,” said Ackerman at a news conference in his Bayside office with Liu. “When I go back to Washington we will be looking to change the proposal.”

Bush’s plan would give three-year legal status to undocumented workers who register with the government and prove they are employed in the United States. The registration can be renewed one time.

If approved by Congress, the policy would allow the workers to visit their home countries and legally return to the United States, a move that many illegal immigrants currently do not risk.

Ackerman, who represents an area from Nassau County to Corona, said his district was 26 percent Asian and 25 percent Latino — with many of those people being foreign-born.

Calling those residents “hardworking people” and “good neighbors,” Ackerman, who sits on the House International Relations Committee, said, “There are more questions that are raised in this policy than are answered.”

He and Liu said Bush’s proposal made no provision for immigrants’ citizenship status after the six years ended — a disincentive to register for people who had prospered in the country without papers for decades.

The policy could just be a way to track immigrants for eventual deportation on minor infractions, as was the case for many people after Sept. 11, 2001, said Ackerman, and would split illegal immigrant parents from their U.S.-born children if they were forced to leave after their registration expired.

“That’s not pro-immigrant. That’s not pro-family,” he said.

Liu echoed Ackerman’s concerns. Both the councilman and congressman are the sons of immigrants.

“This is not a sincere attempt to help ... people who are new Americans,” said Liu, noting that the plan would likely fail in the face of strong opposition from Democrats and conservative Republicans in Congress.

Immigrants, he said, were “treated like criminals” by the Bush administration through ever-tightening visa restrictions.

Both lawmakers said they would support an amnesty for undocumented people, given that population’s willingness to take low-wage jobs the native-born were unwilling to perform.

“We go around the world telling everyone what a great country the United States is,” Ackerman said. “We shouldn’t be surprised that people want to be Americans.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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