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CNN Today

Immigration Ebbs, Flows With Strength of U.S. Economy

Aired April 28, 2000 - 1:33 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Most immigrants will find they have an easier time getting into this country when the U.S. economy is booming. But as CNN's Rusty Dornin tells us, when the markets shift downward, those same immigrants may find the once-open door slammed shut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How times have changed: emotional street demonstrations in '94 after California voters passed Proposition 187, a ballot measure that was to stop state assistance to illegal immigrants. It was ultimately declared unconstitutional, never took effect. Six years later, boom times, and signs the "welcome" mat is out once again for immigrants.

ROBERT RUBIN, COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS: Americans and American leaders tend to be more optimistic about immigrants when the economy is strong.

DORNIN: Strong enough, Vice President Al Gore wants to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants of good moral character who've been in the U.S. since 1986, the date of the last amnesty. Kirbal Bajwa missed that opportunity on a technicality. Here since 1981, now he hopes good times mean he'll have a chance to stay here permanently and legally.

KIRBAL BAJWA, IMMIGRANT: We don't know what is our future for being so long here, and we are pretty much feel American here already.

DORNIN (on camera): While Bajwa hangs in limbo, more new immigrants with high tech skills may get the green light to come here. Several congressional proposals are on the table to expand the much sought-after H1B visas.

(voice-over): Critics say politicians favoring increased immigration are being shortsighted.

YEH LING-LING, DIVERSITY ALLIANCE FOR A SUSTAINABLE AMERICA: We are not advocating stopping immigration. We're saying, let's reduce immigration substantially to a level that would not add more pressure to our schools, infrastructure, to our social fabric.

DORNIN: Both sides know the pendulum will swing once again. PETER SCHEY, CTR. FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: I think that the moment the economy takes a nose dive, the moment there are divisive political issues, political leaders will once again point to the immigrant community as the scapegoats for those problems.

DORNIN: Bajwa still has his eyes on the American dream.

BAJWA: Since it's Silicon Valley and there's a lot of job openings, I hope I can get a good job.

DORNIN: But for now, the door remains shut.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Jose, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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