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U.S. Policy on Immigration

Despite the traditional admonition “don’t pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrel,” it seems appropriate to respond to several aspects of your editorials on Feb. 22 (“Bad Scene in South Texas”) and March 8 (“Spotlight on the INS”) regarding Immigration and Naturalization Service and U.S. immigration policy.

First, with respect to my tenure as INS commissioner, please note the following: I am still on the job; I am currently the most senior high level political appointee in the Department of Justice, having served under Attorneys General William French Smith, Ed Meese and Dick Thornburgh over 7 1/2 years; I have not been informed either that I will be staying or departing; I will continue to serve at the pleasure of the President and attorney general.

Second, it would seem The Times would recognize and acknowledge the tremendous management and policy improvements in immigration over the last 7 1/2 years. In Southern California alone, over 1 1/2 million former illegal aliens were legalized under the very successful program conducted by INS.

With respect to some of the suggestions of The Times for reorganization, these in all probability would create more problems than they will solve. For example, the Border Patrol, with other immigration functions, has long been central to a successful national policy.

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The last point relates to The Times frequent support for the approach of “extended voluntary departure” (EVD) where aliens from Central American countries would be allowed to come to the U.S., stay here until conditions improve, and then be required to return. It is very naive for The Times not to realize the obvious: If we invite Central Americans (22 million) to come to the United States, it would be a tremendous magnet, with potentially millions of aliens coming to this country. Once they have come to the U.S., how would we make any reasonable determination in a few years that conditions were now all right for them to return? Beyond that, how would we effectively locate and then uproot people who had been here several years, become part of our society, and return them to Central America?

If there is one lesson learned with illegal immigration, it is that the longer a person is here illegally, the more difficult it is to remove him. EVD is not a solution; it is part of the problem.

ALAN C. NELSON

INS Commissioner

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Washington, D.C.


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