INS Rules on Employer Sanctions, Legal Status Assailed

Times Staff Writer

Proposed rules for implementing employer sanctions and the granting of legal status for aliens under the landmark immigration law "have serious weaknesses," a coalition of 28 interest groups has charged.

In written comments submitted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service last week and in interviews Monday, the coalition criticized various proposed regulations as unclear, difficult to comply with and unfair to the illegal immigrants who will apply for legal status beginning May 5.

The comments, which were obtained by The Times, represent the first detailed response to the proposed regulations, which are expected to become final in April.

INS Sought Responses

In an unusual move, the INS issued the "preliminary" proposed regulations Jan. 20 to allow responses before it issues its formal proposals later this month. The coalition's comments were made in response to the tentative proposals and, one INS official said, will provide "grist" that the agency will use to shape the final proposals.

Coming from an unusually broad range of groups, the comments are the latest in a continuing barrage of protest against the INS proposals. At a news conference in Los Angeles last Thursday, immigrant rights activists criticized the proposals as so restrictive that they would discourage illegal immigrants from applying for amnesty.

The coalition--which includes labor unions, religious charities, Latino groups and lawyers' organizations--accused the INS of circumventing Congress' desire to prevent employment discrimination and protect privacy.

"Measured against these principles, the regulations, perhaps because of the short time in which they were prepared, have serious weaknesses," the coalition said of the legislation, which President Reagan signed into law Nov. 6.

Beginning June 1, the proposals require all new job applicants to demonstrate their legal residency to employers by presenting a passport, naturalization certificate or a combination of other documents such as a driver's license or Social Security card within 24 hours of being hired.

Question Definition

However, the groups complained, many people do not have such documents. Moreover, they said, it is unclear what the definition of a "hired" immigrant is. They fear that people returning from pregnancy leave, strikes, layoffs or other absences might be treated like new employees and forced to prove their residency.

The law offers legal residence to illegal immigrants who have lived in the United States continuously, except for brief absences, since before Jan. 1, 1982. Farm workers who were employed at least 90 days during the year ending last May also are eligible. The law also calls for fines ranging from $250 to $10,000 and possible jail terms for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.

Members of several groups attacked the proposal to allow inspectors from the INS and the Labor Department to check employers' records at any time to determine if they are hiring illegal immigrants.

Without search warrants, such inspections are "a clear abrogation of Fourth Amendment protection" against unreasonable search and seizures, said Wade Henderson, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union, a member of the coalition.

Fears Disqualifications

The coalition also said it fears that, unless the regulations are modified to make it easier for people to get work permits while awaiting legal status, many will be disqualified on grounds that they cannot support themselves.

Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza and a coalition member, said: "The more we looked at the proposals, the more problems we found," adding that they would "impede, rather than facilitate," implementation of the law.

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