WASHINGTON — Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) Wednesday said that he might filibuster a sweeping immigration bill if the Senate refuses to streamline procedures that growers must follow to import "guest workers."
Chances are considered good for Senate passage this month of the immigration package, sponsored by Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.). But Wilson said the measure would make only a cosmetic attempt to curb the flow of illegal immigrants into this country and would burden California growers with so much red tape that they would be hard pressed to hire sufficient legal workers to get perishable crops picked on time.
Bill Called Inflexible
Simpson's bill is "so bureaucratic and inflexible that it threatens to prevent a timely harvest," Wilson asserted at a Capitol Hill news conference. "If you don't get timely harvests, you get a lot of rotten fruit and a lot of people out of work."
The measure, as approved in July by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would grant amnesty within three years to some illegal immigrants. But, at the same time, it would attempt to undercut the economic incentives that continue to lure more impoverished peasants into the country by making it illegal, for the first time, for American employers to hire them.
Another provision broadens a federal program that allows farmers and growers to legally import temporary labor, but Wilson--echoing the sentiments of many large agricultural groups--contends that it does not go far enough.
He and 38 other senators sent a letter to Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III last June urging support for a proposal to let growers import foreign workers quickly if Meese determines that the labor supply in any given area is insufficient to pick crops before they spoil.
Support in Doubt
If the full Senate refuses to add that change to the Simpson bill when it comes up for a vote, Wilson said he might conduct a filibuster to prevent the measure's passage--although he conceded that he might not have enough support to pull off such a delaying tactic.
"I would certainly hold that (a filibuster) out," Wilson said. "I have yet to engage in a first filibuster, but that might be the occasion."
Many Latino groups oppose any expansion of the guest worker program, charging that it would keep wages for field workers low and cost the jobs of many migrant workers who are in the country legally.
Meanwhile, Wilson said he would be "greatly disappointed" if Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel scuttled an agreement to limit oil drilling off California that was worked out recently by Hodel and members of the state's congressional delegation.
During a tour of the state last week, Hodel indicated that he might seek to alter the plan to expand the number of potential offshore sites where petroleum companies would be allowed to explore for oil.
Wilson said he believes Hodel had previously committed himself to the drilling arrangement worked out with legislators.