Panel on illegal immigration says close 'back door,' open front wider

Illegal immigration to the United States is "out of control" says a report just made to Congress and the President. According to the chairman of the 16-member commission making the report, failure to enforce the immigration law has "devastating impact" on enforcement of other laws, and the flood of illegals through America's "half-open back door . . . has created an underclass of workers."

President Reagan has named a Cabinet-level committee, chaired by Attorney General William French Smith, to study the commission's recommendations. Congress will hold its own hearings.

The commission, which studied the problem for two years, recommends sanctions against employers who make a practice of hiring illegal aliens, a more secure system of identification for all workers in the United States in order to better identify "illegals," a one-time amnesty for illegals already in this country (estimated at from 3 million to 6 million), and a "modest increase" in legal migration. The commission urges more funds for the undermanned border patrol and dozens of proposals for tightening procedure.

But because its members divided on many points, the commission's report is unlikely to settle the emotionally charged issue of the flow of illegal immigrants and their employment. Congress, in establishing the commission, allocated four appointees to the Senate, four to the House of Representatives, and four to the President. It appointed four outside members, including the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame University, as chairman.

The basic conundrum is how to remove the economic incentives for persons to enter the US illegally without punishing employers who hire them after they enter. This requires some form of work card for legal workers, it is believed, but the commission members balked at laying down specific terms. It recommended , 8 to 7, a more secure method of identification for citizens and legal aliens. Currently it is illegal to "harbor" an illegal alien, but not to "hire" him.

The commission recommended raising legal immigration from 270,000 a year to 350,000, with an extra 100,000 for the next five years to clear up waiting lists. It recommended legalizing the status of those who entered before Jan. 1, 1980, to end present ambiguity and to reduce their menace to the work force that can be exploited to cut wages.

The tangle of present immigration laws is believed to be worse than for any other subject in the country. The problem is deepened by the current high unemployment rate, estimated at around 6 million. While the commission is unanimous in asking more funds for the undermanned, hard-pressed enforcement authorities, the report goes to President Reagan at a time when he is trying to cut expenses and reduce federal intervention in private business.

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