Maryland ties

May 26, 2006|By GWYNETH K. SHAW | GWYNETH K. SHAW,SUN REPORTER

Three provisions in the immigration bill passed yesterday by the Senate have national implications but roots in Maryland.

The legislation would extend an expansion of a visa program for seasonal workers, known as H2B, that has become essential for seafood packers in Maryland and other businesses around the country. Prodded by Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and other lawmakers, Congress agreed last year to allow workers who have previously come to the U.S. to return in 2005 and 2006, even if the annual limit of 66,000 visas has been reached; the Senate bill extends the exemption through 2009.

The legislation authorizes a two-year test program adding Poland to the list of countries whose residents can come to the U.S. for a visit of up to 60 days without a visa. Visitors from countries in the waiver program - which include the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan - still need passports to get into the country. The provision was sponsored by Republican Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Bill Frist of Tennessee, along with Mikulski.

A provision inspired by the death of a Randallstown soldier, Army Reserve Spec. Kendell K. Frederick, eases the path to citizenship for immigrants who are serving in the military. Frederick, a Trinidad native, was killed in Iraq late last year on his way back from having his fingerprints taken for his citizenship application. The provision, sponsored by Mikulski, would require that fingerprints taken at enlistment be used for citizenship applications, along with other measures to smooth the citizenship process.

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