The Senate Judiciary Committee, in a move denounced by Latino leaders as “a legalization sham,” Tuesday endorsed a major revision of immigration laws after adding a guarantee of amnesty within three years for many illegal aliens.
Before it voted 12 to 4 in favor of the measure, the panel added a provision that would make employers subject to criminal as well as civil sanctions if they repeatedly hired workers who are in this country illegally.
Because of the changes, Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.), the bill’s sponsor, predicted that chances are “quite good” that the Republican-controlled Senate will pass the measure when it returns from its August recess.
House Has Own Bill
Simpson said he believes also that the Senate can reconcile differences between its version and a House bill proposed last week by Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N. J.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Simpson agreed to add the three-year amnesty guarantee after critics complained that his bill left in limbo the fate of many illegal aliens, whose numbers are estimated at as high as 6 million.
The original bill had limited eligibility for legal status to those illegal aliens who entered the United States before 1980 and made it conditional on the findings of a presidential commission that employer penalties and other enforcement measures were effectively curtailing illegal immigration.
Under an amendment proposed by Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and approved 10 to 4, amnesty would become automatic after three years if the legalization commission had failed by then to implement it.
“Here we’re making legalization absolutely assured,” Simpson said.
But representatives of Latino groups argued that, armed with new employer sanctions and a possible three-year delay in legalization, the Immigration and Naturalization Service could round up and deport many of those who might be eligible for amnesty before they could take advantage of it.
“In three years, the INS can go to job and work sites and pick up people and send them across the border, while at the same time Simpson can go around saying he legalized people,” charged Richard P. Fajardo, acting associate counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Arnoldo S. Torres, an official of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference and the Arizona Farmworkers Union, called the amendment “a legalization sham” and said that it would turn immigration reform into a “detect, detain and deport program.”
The panel approved another Metzenbaum amendment adding a six-month jail sentence to a schedule of fines employers could face if they continued to hire illegal aliens after being caught once. The Rodino bill, which would allow aliens who had entered the country unlawfully before 1982 to gain legal status, also contains criminal sanctions against employers who repeatedly hire illegal aliens.
Lured by Jobs
Under current law, although it is illegal for aliens to sneak into the country to seek jobs, it is not illegal for employers to hire them. Simpson and other supporters of employer sanctions contend that the willingness of farmers and factory managers to hire illegal aliens helps lure jobless peasants from Central America and other poverty-stricken Third World countries to the United States.
But opponents of sanctions contend that they will make employers wary about hiring all Latinos and aggravate job discrimination.
Although many Democrats on the committee vowed to press for revisions on the Senate floor, Metzenbaum, considered one of his party’s more liberal members, argued for the Simpson bill.