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House Votes Not to Evict Aliens : Approves Ban on Ouster at Federally Run Units

Times Staff Writer

The House voted Wednesday to prevent tens of thousands of illegal aliens from being forced out of public housing as its Judiciary Committee began debating controversial, landmark legislation designed to curb the flow of such immigrants into the country.

On a voice vote, lawmakers in the Democratic-run chamber agreed to a measure to stop the eviction of most illegal aliens now living in government-run dwellings, despite new federal guidelines that, beginning Aug. 1, will bar illegal aliens from publicly run housing units.

The proposal, attached to a $14-billion bill authorizing a wide range of federal housing programs for fiscal 1987, still would bar public housing authorities from accepting aliens in the country illegally as new tenants.

But it would allow most current illegal residents in public units to stay, including the elderly and families with at least one member who had attained legal status. Even if their parents are in the country unlawfully, youngsters born in the United States are considered citizens.

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Debate on the housing bill is in its second week. Last week, lawmakers added a provision that would put a virtual halt to the construction of new government-owned low-income housing.

Orchestrating the drive against eviction of current illegal tenants was an unlikely California duo of Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Los Angeles), a prominent Latino lawmaker, and Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), a staunch conservative.

Dornan, in a tough fight for reelection against Democratic challenger Richard Robinson, said it would be “an enormous injustice” to roust illegal aliens from their homes. “There are several innocent families who, if they can’t stay in public housing, will be turned out into the streets,” he argued.

Balked at Spending Funds

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He said the amendment would facilitate progress on the Buena-Clinton urban renewal project in Garden Grove. Rehabilitation work in the area requires the transfer of many public housing residents, but federal authorities, citing the new guidelines, had balked at spending money to move illegal aliens.

Roybal said the guidelines laid down by the Housing and Urban Development Department would require the ouster from public housing of any member of a family who could not prove they were either citizens or legal resident aliens. Many families with mixed legal status would have to leave public housing or break up, he said.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee ended months of delay and began debating a sweeping package of immigration law reforms that would provide amnesty to many undocumented aliens in the country but seek to dissuade new arrivals by--for the first time--imposing sanctions on employers who knowingly hire workers here illegally.

The Republican-led Senate last year passed a similar reform package, which included a controversial provision sponsored by Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) that would have allowed Western growers to import up to 350,000 “guest workers” to help pick perishable crops.

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Growers, who now rely heavily on illegal labor at harvest time, maintain that domestic labor supplies for the work are inadequate. But critics, among them farm labor and Latino groups, contend that the growers are trying to depress wages by ensuring themselves of a ready supply of low-cost, easily exploitable foreign labor.

Panel Action Stalled

Debate over whether to include a Wilson-type program in the House immigration bill has stalled committee action for months and eventually could doom the measure. Two California lawmakers have led the fight on opposite sides of the issue. Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach) is championing the pro-grower forces, while Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) has struggled to block passage of a guest worker plan.

Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.), the powerful chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has vowed to kill any immigration legislation that includes a Wilson-type guest worker program.

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