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Sen. Simpson Defends New Immigration Law

November 15, 1986

I write in strong response to the article (Editorial Pages, Oct. 26) by Antonio Rodriguez, "The New Immigration Nightmare." The undocumented community has people like Rodriguez to thank for not receiving the remarkable grace of legalization in swifter fashion.

The piece is riddled with inaccuracies, inconsistencies, babble and pure hysteria. Rodriguez writes that "Fear and anxiety are the predominant emotions in Latino neighborhoods" as a result of the bill's passage. This "fear and anxiety"--if it indeed exists--is ever more likely caused by the horror stories that people of the author's ilk have been using to torpedo the bill for the past five years.

It is a curious and cruel irony that, once the bill now has been finally pased, some of the benefits of the bill may not be enjoyed by the undocumented community because of the distortion of the legislation by advocates such as Rodriguez.

Most offensive to me is the author's comparison of the Simpson-Rodino-Mazzoli bill to the "Great Repatriation" of the 1930s and "Operation Wetback" of 1954. These were crude programs of physical force that sought solely to deport to their country of origin those who were illegally present in the United States.

The immigration bill avoids this approach in two ways: (1) it would grant legal status to those who have resided here illegally since before Jan. 1, 1982, and (2) instead of concentrating on physical and even some suggested military deterrents to illegal immigration, the bill would remove the incentive for illegal immigration by penalizing employers who knowingly hired illegal, undocumented aliens.

Comparing the present immigration bill to Operation Wetback is like comparing Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler.

Rodriguez then confuses his own misinformation about the immigration bill with his comments on intentional employment discrimination. Hear this carefully: The immigration bill's prohibition against hiring illegal aliens applies only to those hired after the enactment of the bill, and no employer penalties will be assessed for the first six months. There will be an "education period" immediately after the President signs the bill in order to inform employers of the bill's requirements and responsibilities. Let me quote directly from the bill on this point, so that we may allay some of the fears and distortions that the author raises:

"The attorney general, in cooperation with the secretaries of agriculture, commerce, health and human services, labor, and the Treasury, and the administrator of the Small Business Administration, shall disseminate forms and information to employers, employment agencies, and organizations representing employees and provide for public education respecting the requirements of this section (employer sanctions)."

Rodriguez raises the haunting specter of employers using the bill only as an excuse to clear their payrolls of troublesome employees--and "Latinos in general." Bosh. That would be an illegal act of employment discrimination under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the new anti-discrimination provisions included in the immigration bill. The author waxes on as if employers were somehow free to "purge" their workers in this manner, and that fired employees have no rights in such an instance. Both implications are crudely false.

The article then makes a prediction of "mass firings and unemployment of Latinos" because of the bill's passage. This contention is particularly illogical in Southern California, where a large portion of the potential work force is of Hispanic origin, and a significant portion of it is legal.

It is simply absurd to believe a businessman would dismiss all of his present employees and then refuse to hire new employees of a certain nationality--when a large portion of his potential new employees might well be within that same ethnic group. It makes no possible "business sense."

Rodriguez then argues that mass unemployment might "eventually" be felt in certain neighborhoods. This could not even be possible until well after the information campaign has been completed--and as such it is extremely unlikely.

Rodriguez seems to believe that we should not in any way restrict illegal aliens from entering the United States, nor should we restrict them from obtaining U.S. employment. He is entitled to his point of view on this issue, but it should be noted that a great majority of American citizens--and a majority of Hispanic-American citizens--do not agree. His article should be read in that context. Do most Americans and Hispanic Americans object to a recently arrived illegal alien being subject to the potential of being "unemployed until obtaining legal status?" That answer is "no."

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