SACRAMENTO — Even though a rule permitting illegal aliens to work in the United States without proof of legal status expired today, few workers are expected to lose their jobs, the Western regional commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service said Monday.
"There are 7 million employers in America, and we're not going to get to all of them by Sept. 2," Commissioner Harold Ezell said during a press conference at the Capitol.
Under the special rule, in effect since March, aliens were given a six-month grace period during which they had only to tell their employers that they were eligible for legalization to retain the right to work. The rule was issued, Ezell said, to give aliens time to get their papers in order.
Now, the commissioner said, employers have the right to demand from employees either a work permit or a receipt showing that they have applied for amnesty under the immigration reform act.
Role for Employers
While the INS will not begin large-scale efforts to find those who missed the deadline, "employers ought to start asking those people, 'Where's the information?' " Ezell said.
But a deputy director of the immigration service in San Francisco, Philip Waters, said his office had "been telling employers to fire (aliens) only for legitimate business reasons." He added, "We're not saying we're not going to enforce the law, but we would not like to see mass firings."
Ezell was joined at the press conference by state Employment Development Director Kaye R. Kiddoo, who lamented that few aliens were taking advantage of his department's offer to help them document their residency in the United States.
Under the immigration reform act, aliens who can prove U.S. residency since Jan. 1, 1982, have until May 4, 1988, to apply for amnesty, the first step to attaining American citizenship. Kiddoo said that since June 1 the Employment Development Department had made its payroll records available to aliens seeking to show employment in California, but that only 2,000 requests for the documents had been received.
Ezell said that about 330,000 illegal aliens to date had applied for amnesty under the immigration reform act.