The notion of a fence along the Rio Grande, to hold Mexicans and other Latin Americans out of the United States, has long been repugnant to many Americans, especially Hispanics. It is seen as a necessity to other Americans, who might not say it outright.
The Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill - which would penalize employers for hiring illegal aliens and at the same time legalize the status of millions of aliens already in the US - is not a fence. It is a rational attempt to balance the interests involved in the influx of aliens.
Still, the latent passions the bill arouses over potential discrimination against Hispanic-looking Americans, and over legalization of a minority unwelcome to many resident Americans, offers an enormous temptation to campaigning politicians. This is why, suddenly, the Democratic and Republican standard-bearers have jumped on the bill with both feet as the campaign in the crucial Southern tier, especially Texas, gets under way.
It's a pity. The bill awaits a conference committee compromise. Sponsor Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R) of Wyoming is right to wait until after Labor Day to initiate action. In a test between passion and reason, patience is wise.