As many as 200,000 illegal immigrants may apply for amnesty under a separate section of the landmark immigration law of 1986, but there is a major catch, U.S. immigration officials admitted Wednesday.
"Very, very few, if any, will be accepted into the program," Ernest Gustafson, the Immigration and Naturalization Service's director in Los Angeles, told a news conference on the city's Eastside.
He said the program--designed to ensure that there are enough seasonal workers for America's farms and ranches--hinges on whether federal officials declare a shortage of such workers. If one is not declared, then no workers will be selected, Gustafson said.
An estimated 3 million aliens applied nationwide under the amnesty law's general provisions, which are open to a variety of workers including year-round agricultural workers. They have until November, 1990, to complete the law's Phase II requirements of knowledge of English and U.S. history in order to qualify for amnesty.
Whether additional agricultural workers are ever needed will be "up to the (federal) Departments of Labor and Agriculture" to determine, Gustafson said. When such shortages occur, employers can draw on the extra worker pool allowed under the program that the INS explained Wednesday.
Up to now, there has been sharp disagreement over whether such shortages exists. In the past, agricultural interests and many farmers have argued that they require a steady supply of foreign workers to complete harvests.
But immigrant advocates have disputed that contention, saying farmer interests merely want to flood the market with excess workers to obtain an economic advantage.