WASHINGTON — Any illegal aliens caught re-entering the United States after visits abroad will be deported, even though they would have been covered by the new amnesty program if they had not left the country, Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Alan C. Nelson said Tuesday.
His decision, announced at a news conference to outline the service's plans for implementing the new immigration law, directly contradicts an order issued by a federal judge in California only a day earlier. INS officials are expected to seek a stay blocking the court ruling and said they will file an appeal.
The ruling Monday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton--with which the INS has five days to comply--bars the deportation of illegal aliens who take brief trips abroad and return to this country, if they would otherwise qualify for amnesty. The ruling applies to anyone re-entering the country after Nov. 6, when the new law took effect.
"We think it's an outrageous order," Nelson said of Karlton's ruling, adding that "we don't expect it will stop our operation."
Earlier this month, Nelson directed INS offices nationwide to process for deportation anyone caught re-entering the country.
Nelson said that even aliens who have left the country for only brief periods "will be processed in a normal manner" for deportation. "Basically, we're not allowing people in," he said. "It would be chaos to do so, and it is not required by law."
Paul Schmidt, INS acting general counsel, asserted that obeying the judge's ruling would cause a "crush at the borders" and that many people re-entering "would be submitting false claims that they were out for a short period of time."
The new immigration law grants legal status to people who have lived in the country illegally and continuously since before Jan. 1, 1982. The law excuses "brief, casual and innocent absences" from this country, but INS officials said they have not yet defined such absences.
In addition, the landmark law will grant legal status to those who work in agriculture jobs if they worked for at least 90 days in the year ending May, 1, 1986.
A Matter of Trust
Peter Schey, executive director of the National Center for Immigrants' Rights Inc., one of the groups that filed the class-action suit on which Karlton ruled, said: "The more INS fights in the public realm for a restrictive amnesty, the fewer people will have trust in the agency and step forward for amnesty."
Linda Wong, director of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund's immigrant civil rights program, said that, because of the approaching holidays, "a lot of people could unwittingly forfeit their eligibility" by visiting relatives in Mexico.
Under the immigration law, employers face penalties ranging from $250 to $10,000 for each illegal alien they knowingly hire after the legislation took effect.
However, immigrant rights groups say, some employers have fired workers only on the basis of physical appearance, apparently fearing that they would draw fines.
Beginning what is to be a massive education effort, Nelson urged employers to:
--Not discharge current employees or refuse to hire new ones "based on foreign appearance or language."
--Assist applicants for legalization by providing them summaries of employment, if they request them.
--Inform all new employees that, when guidelines are received from the INS, they must prove that they are able to work legally.
--State their intention to hire only legal workers.
--Be alert for compliance information from the INS in the next six months, until May 5, 1987, after which the INS will begin taking applications from immigrants seeking legalization.
Nelson advised illegal aliens to begin compiling documents to prove their continued residence, such as employment records, utility and rent payments, tax, school or medical bills.
Meanwhile, he is assembling a team of INS officials to propose specific regulations to implement the new law. Also, in Los Angeles, an all-day meeting will be held Dec. 3 to inform the public on the employer sanctions and amnesty provisions.