Washington — America fails to protect its borders, about a million illegal aliens may enter annually, and the chaos in the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is such that last spring there was a backlog of 4.2 million unprocessed documents.
These are some of the conclusions in a report to Congress by the US Comptroller General's office. It states flatly, at one point: "INS cannot cope with the illegal alien population.
"An illegal alien, one safety into the US, has little chance of being located and deported.
"INS simply does not know the number of illegal aliens, or who or where they are."
Those close to the survey liken the enforcement difficulties to those of the final days of Prohibition.
The 30-page study comes just before the report of an 18-member joint presidential-congressional commission, under the chairmanship of Notre Dame University president Theodore Hesburgh. The commission is scheduled to have its final, closed-door session Dec. 5. It will submit a final report March 1.
The Comptroller General's report, just made public, calls prospects "dim" for immigration control under present laws. It notes than in the hostage crisis, when President Carter wanted to know how many Iranian students were in the country, the immigration service couldn't tell him. It says that many "accredited schools" at which foreign students are permitted to study can't be located.
Meanwhile, the US serves as an "escape valve" for Mexico, which has with 3.4 population growth rate -- one of highest in the world -- and where 62 percent of the work force is unemployed or underemployed.
Estimates of "illegals" in the US range from 3 to 12 million; the new report to Congress uses the figure of about 6 million. Some 1 million deportable aliens are apprehended each year, the report says, and some border patrolmen guess that for every one caught two more enter. To guard the entire 8,000-mile US border (2,000 miles with Mexico), the INS has only 2,500 employees and a budget of $62 million.
"Alien identification systems are not working," the report states flatly. There has been an absence of tabulating machines and a breakdown of paper work: "As of the end of April 1980, according to INS officials," the report says, "the backlog represented about 4.2 million documents -- equivalent to about 11 weeks of arrival departure records. . . .
"Once settled in the interior of the US, illegal aliens are reasonably safe from deportation. . . . INS simply does not have the means to identify, apprehend, and deport illegal aliens to the extent of putting an appreciable dent in their number."
One proposal is a system under which all US residents would have to have identity cards and employers would be liable if they hired illegals.