In an attempt to gain the confidence of tens of thousands of illegal aliens, immigration officials have unveiled a media blitz aimed at convincing potential applicants for amnesty that the legalization procedure will not be used to deport them.
Potential applicants under the new immigration law will soon be hearing a message on radio and television from Harold Ezell, Western regional commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, assuring them that they can safely participate in the proceedings.
In a second message to be broadcast throughout the West, Ezell will caution employers that they should not respond to the new law by indiscriminately firing employees who have a foreign appearance or accent.
The 30-second public information commercials will first air about March 1 throughout California, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and Guam, said John Belluardo, director of congressional and public affairs for the INS Western region office.
The spots are intended to accelerate an educational effort about the new law that was mandated by Congress when it passed the measure Nov. 6, Belluardo said Monday. They are aimed at the two major groups affected by the new law: people now in the United States illegally and employers who hire them.
"The spots are an excellent vehicle to demonstrate our intention to provide the best information as quickly as possible so that everyone eligible (for legalized status) has an opportunity," Belluardo said. "Also, we want to avoid discrimination in the workplace."
The two spots will be translated into Spanish next week for airing on Spanish-language stations as well, Belluardo said. Ezell does not speak Spanish.
The spot on legalized status says that applications will be accepted at special INS centers beginning May 5, and that people should begin assembling work-related and other documents that can prove continued residence since at least Jan. 1, 1982, Belluardo said.
"It says specifically that information submitted will not be used to remove (applicants) from this country unless it has been falsified," Belluardo said. People now in the United States illegally but who are potentially eligible for the amnesty program have expressed concerns that the INS would use the process to deport them.
The announcement aimed at employers tells them that the law prohibiting the hiring of illegal aliens applies to all workers hired on or after Nov. 6 of last year, Belluardo said. Employers have until June 1 to digest new regulations on verification and documentation of employees.
Employers "should examine and talk to all new hires after Nov. 6 to make sure they are legally authorized workers," Belluardo said. "The law does not require the employer to determine if a person hired before that date is here legally or not . . . those employees are grandfathered by the new immigration law."
Added Belluardo, "We are trying to encourage employers not to indiscriminately fire persons based on foreign appearance or nationality, or foreign accent."
Belluardo said that INS headquarters in Washington is putting together a nationwide publicity campaign about the new law but that Ezell wanted to get an interim program going before the larger media blitz. He said that copies of the two announcements would be mailed to 110 television stations and 700 radio stations in the Western region beginning next week .