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State Democrats Introduce 6-Bill Immigration Package

March 12, 1994|JAMES BORNEMEIER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Seven California Democrats introduced a package of immigration-related bills Friday that would beef up the Border Patrol and require the federal government to reimburse states for the costs of imprisoning illegal immigrants convicted of crimes.

But in contrast to more aggressive responses to illegal immigration, the legislation would not curtail emergency health or education benefits, or reverse laws granting citizenship to children of illegal immigrants.

Instead, the bills would accelerate the naturalization process, provide more education funds to help legal immigrants become U.S. citizens and create an independent review panel to investigate civil rights abuses by U.S. Customs and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The proposals break little new ground but represent a compromise that would appeal to Democrats with markedly different views on immigration.

The six bills were embraced both by immigrant rights advocate Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills), who has favored tougher measures.

The package does not include Beilenson's call for a tamper-resistant Social Security card. Nor was there any talk at the news conference about his advocacy of a constitutional amendment to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the United States whose mothers are in the country illegally.

Similarly, Becerra would prefer to repeal some parts of the landmark 1986 immigration reform bill that makes employers responsible for checking the citizenship of prospective workers. Instead, he is sponsoring a bill to expand the government's authority to investigate discrimination complaints over hiring practices.

"This is the rational way to approach the problem," said Becerra, who warned that "in this political year, all sorts of things are being said."

In an apparent reference to an amendment sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) that would have required school districts to report the cost of educating illegal immigrants, Becerra said: "None of our proposals make kids snitch on their parents." Rohrabacher's amendment failed last week.

The six bills call for:

* Boosting the Border Patrol to 6,000 full-time officers, up from 3,500 officers, and upgrading equipment and training, sponsored by Beilenson.

* Requiring the federal government to reimburse states for the costs of incarcerating undocumented criminal immigrants, estimated at $18,000 per year per prisoner, sponsored by Becerra.

* Reducing delays in processing applications for naturalization and speeding up swearing in of new citizens, sponsored by Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel).

* Providing education and outreach services to legal residents seeking citizenship, sponsored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles).

* Expanding federal authority to investigate hiring discrimination, sponsored by Becerra.

* Establishing a review board to investigate civil rights abuses by federal agents, sponsored by Becerra.

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