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Employers Skeptical of Enforcing New INS Regulations on Aliens

January 21, 1987|KEN CHAVEZ AND MARCIDA DODSON | Times Staff Writers

Orange County employers Tuesday expressed skepticism that proposed Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations requiring proof of new employees' U.S. citizenship or legal working status can be enforced.

And an attorney for an immigrants' rights group said that proposed INS fees of $150 to $250 to process illegal aliens' amnesty applications are unfairly high.

Orange County employers and others were surveyed Tuesday in response to the issuance of the proposed INS regulations.

Landscaper Mark Bucher, owner of Heritage Property Services in Tustin, said he thinks that the proposed regulations are a potential burden to employers in the gardening industry. "We're doing their job for them (the INS), and I don't think that's right. If a guy comes off the street and asks for a job, you don't ask him for his ID. Let's get serious," he said.

"It's creating a market for false documents," added Roger Green, owner of Golden West Landscape in Newport Beach. "If they start making us verify the validity of a document, that could work up into some hassles."

Under the Reagan Administration's proposed immigration rules released Tuesday by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, job applicants would have to prove within 24 hours of being hired that they are U.S. citizens or have legal work status. For proof, job applicants would have to produce a passport, naturalization certificate, or a combination of documents such as a Social Security card and a driver license.

The INS is considering a charge of $150 to $250 for processing each application for legal residency.

"It's a method of screening out poor persons," said Richard Spix, attorney for Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, an Orange County immigration organization. "If a family has to make a decision whether to feed themselves for a month or apply (for amnesty). . . well, people are going to forsake the program."

Spix said 35,000 to 45,000 people in Orange County are expected to apply.

The tentative rules mark the first step in implementing the landmark immigration measure signed into law by President Reagan in November. The law grants amnesty to illegal aliens who can prove they have lived in the United States since 1982 and imposes stiff fines on employers who continue to hire illegals.

Spix said he believes that the amnesty charge will exceed the government's cost of processing applications. An INS employee will probably "spend eight minutes on a computer terminal for each application," he said. "I don't see how they can justify anything above $25."

Spix, who has been involved in fighting evictions of undocumented Latinos, said the INS should take the same posture as the courts in cases involving low-income people. The charge for filing court papers for a tenant in a rent strike is $21, he said, and even that has been waived on occasion because the courts recognize that the absence of fees "is crucial for access (by the poor) to the courts."

The new rules could result in a black market for fake documents for those who fail to attain legal residency, said one employer said.

Will Require Documents

"Well, I definitely want to stay out of trouble," said Dave Kirk, owner of Kirk Produce, a strawberry and vegetable farm in Placentia. "We're going to require that they (workers) provide a Social Security card and driver license, all the things that are required by law to be done."

"What will happen is it will force workers to go out and pay black market prices for Social Security cards. The employers are going to continue to use the (alien) work force because the work force is there," said Kirk, who employs about 30 workers year-round but many more during harvest periods.

Other employers said the proposed regulations would have little or no effect on their hiring practices since they have already begun to ask for verification of a worker's legal status to avoid stiff penalties for employing illegal aliens.

"We always ask for documentation," said Marina Buscalia, a manager in the personnel office of the agricultural division of the Irvine Co., a major home builder. "As far as we know, the workers have the legal, proper documents."

Tentative immigration rules requiring job applicants to prove legal residency were released Tuesday. Part I, Page 1.

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