Cranston Cites Aliens’ ‘Terrible Choice’ : He’ll Ask Order to INS to Allow Families to Get Amnesty Together

Times Staff Writer

Citing the “terrible choice” faced by many aliens seeking amnesty, U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston said Saturday that he plans to introduce legislation aimed at preventing the breakup of families under the nation’s new immigration law.

Unless the law is administered with common sense and humanity, Cranston said, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 could be a “cruel instrument of family suffering,” resulting in separation of children from their parents and husbands from wives.

The act legalizes the status of aliens who have lived in the U.S. since before 1982, but the law’s protection does not expressly extend to members of their immediate families. As a result, Cranston said, many aliens face the dilemma of breaking up their families or continuing to remain illegal.

Cranston told reporters at a Westwood press conference that he will introduce a Congressional resolution Tuesday instructing U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials not to deport family members who fail to qualify for legalization.


“We must preserve family unity,” he said. “We must not force people to make the terrible choice of either breaking up their family or ignoring the law and remaining in the dark shadows of an underground, illegal world.”

Cranston said that INS district directors now have authority to assure family unity, and he said that INS Commissioner Alan C. Nelson has reminded the officials of their discretionary powers to prevent deportations upon humanitarian grounds.

He noted that the district director in Chicago has issued instructions not to break up families, but he said that so far a similar order “has not been issued” in Los Angeles County.

“This is a vitally important matter that could affect hundreds of thousands of people, especially in Los Angeles and in California generally,” Cranston said. The INS has estimated that one-third of all applications for legalization nationwide are expected to be filed in the Los Angeles area, he added.


Appearing with Cranston, Father Luis Olivares of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church said he knows of “several instances” in which applicants for legalization have asked that requests be torn up.

“People have told me, ‘We are not applying because I don’t want to break up my family,’ ” he said.

Representatives of the Catholic Church have repeatedly asked the immigration service to ease regulations that might break up families.