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Illegal Aliens and Actions by the Immigration Service

October 13, 1985

It is discouraging that The Times' editorial (Oct. 6) described the efforts of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to enforce U.S. immigration laws in and about Santa Ana as callous and brutal.

Your editorial evinces an indifference or ignorance of the magnitude of the illegal alien problem by proclaiming that INS should be concentrating its enforcement efforts at the border--and in Congress. An estimated one-half to two-thirds of the people who seek illegal entry at our borders are successfully infiltrating our border defenses. The successful illegal entrant does not remain at the border. He travels into the interior to a populous area where he feels more secure--and where he believes jobs are available. In addition, millions and millions of aliens enter legally as visitors each year and an estimated 10% overstay. Many of them find jobs, working in violation of our laws.

While INS does concentrate a major interdiction effort at the border, it is unrealistic, as you intimate, that its enforcement efforts not extend into the interior. It is incredible that The Times is suggesting that if an alien successfully sneaks through our border defenses, he is to be treated as "home free."

You apparently support the statement of the city manager of Santa Ana, who said that he is "appalled" by the INS "sweeps." Strangely, the city manager does not find the sweeps by his police force in search of narcotic violators as being appalling, although he and the chief of police recognize that the violator may be a person illegally in the United States--and sought and received INS backup assistance. Most of the narcotics pass through our borders illegally, transported by persons who may have entered unlawfully. The Santa Ana police force is properly exercising its enforcement responsibilities by ferreting out narcotic violators, as is the immigration officer who seeks to locate the immigration law violator wherever he may be found. In my view, it is appalling that the city manager, a public official, should object to immigration law enforcement in and about the city that he manages.

There no doubt will be inconveniences to some individuals as INS carries out its enforcement responsibilities. The objectives of INS enforcement responsibilities far outweigh the slight inconvenience to the public. What is most disappointing with The Times' editorial, and others in the same vein, is support of actions that flaunt respect for our laws.

Your editorial suggests that INS disregard or minimize its enforcement obligations away from the border, concentrating its responsibilities only at the border--and in Congress. The job market in the United States is the magnet that attracts most of the aliens who enter the United States illegally.

Until Congress legislates sanctions against employers who hire aliens not authorized to work, the primary enforcement tool necessarily is the use of officer manpower to interdict at the border and to locate and apprehend the large number of violators who infiltrate into the interior or overstay.


Laguna Niguel

Joseph Sureck, now retired, is the former director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's district office in Los Angeles.

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