GREAT care will need to be taken by US law enforcement agencies in their searches for illegal aliens in factories and other places of work. Such searches , just ruled constitutionally valid by the US Supreme Court, are an effective way of finding people who have immigrated illegally into the United States.
But the questionings should always be conducted with respect for each individual, and without intimidation on the part of individual enforcement officials. There should be no hint of ethnic bigotry, either in the conduct of the individual raids or in the public attitudes toward them. Most of the aliens involved are Spanish surnamed, and Hispanic groups are gravely concerned that such searches, plus elements of an immigration bill now before Congress, may result in widespread discrimination by employers against Hispanic job seekers.
Yet even if the searches are carried out with the utmost propriety, they still provide only one part of the needed effort to get the US immigration problem under control. Two steps should be taken now:
- The House of Representatives should pass the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform bill this year, and this version should be reconciled with the one approved last year by the Senate.
- Congress should approve the Reagan administration plans to hire an additional 850 law enforcement officers to patrol US borders. Last fiscal year 1 million people were caught trying to enter the US illegally, but considerably more escaped detection, largely because there are too few officers to keep effective control of the nation's borders.
The first priority is to develop a national policy toward the immigration of today and tomorrow - and that of recent years, much of which was illegal. That is what the Simpson-Mazzoli measure is intended to do. It would provide amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants already in the United States, and undertake to prevent future widespread illegal immigration.
The key to this latter aim is its provision to penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, as some are widely believed to do for economic reasons. It is this aspect of the measure which draws vigorous opposition from Hispanic groups: They fear employers would react by not hiring Hispanic workers, legal or illegal.
The concern is understandable. Yet it need not be realized, if there is a measured hiring response by businesses, plus rigorous monitoring of employer hiring practices by government at all levels, and by civil liberties groups.
The bill should be passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.