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Closing the door on immigration

A grand jury of Dade County, Florida, attacks the Justice Department, which supervises immigration. It says the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service is ''impotent'' and that illegals are pouring into the US. It says this costs South Florida taxpayers $130 million. The 56-page report uses language like ''slipshod'' and ''completely unmanaged'' and charges the existence of foreign drug smugglers and ''countless lives.'' Not so, replies the spokesman of the Justice Department. It says the charges are ill-informed and ''outdated.'' The argument continues.

One thing that has happened in this continuing controversy is that the jobless rate has risen to 9.4 percent in the US. This is the highest since 1947 when the Labor Department began keeping monthly counts. The US has the most generous immigration policies of any industrial nation. While unemployment at home seems headed for a double-digit figure (with a ratio of 50 percent or so among black teen-agers in central cities) something like 400,000 legal immigrants are being admitted annually. Nobody knows how many illegals slip over the border--perhaps a million or more.

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Immigration commissioner Leonard F. Chapman Jr. said in 1976: ''When the emotional arguments are removed from the illegal aliens issue, we are left with a set of facts that lead to an unavoidable conclusion: we have a serious and costly problem of illegal aliens now, and it will be many times worse in the near future unless the country takes some steps very soon to control it.''

The ''near future'' of Mr. Chapman is today's present. Sentiment, history, and culture make immigration an emotional issue for Americans. The country has seen its racial composition change.

There are critics of the process but the easiest course is to do nothing. Said William Colby, former CIA Director, in an interview, ''The swelling population of Mexico, driving millions of illegal aliens over the border, is a greater threat to the future of the United States than the Soviet Union.''

Such strong language brings dissent. One problem is to estimate the figures. Illegals in the US have been put at from six to 12,000,000. If the latter figure is right it is somewhat bigger than the estimated number of jobless in April, reckoned at 10,307,000.

The Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy headed by Theodore M. Hesburgh, which presented its report to President Reagan in March 1981, estimated illegals as under 6,000,000. Others double that. Whatever the number the Commission said flatly that ''hundreds of thousands of persons annually enter this country outside the law. . . The Select Commission is well aware of the widespread dissatisfaction among US citizens with an immigration policy that seems out of control.''

The commission also said:

''The message is clear--most US citizens believe that the half-open door of undocumented/illegal migration should be closed.''

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The world's rate of population increase is declining. Natural resources are giving out. The figure is around .8 percent annually in the US but three times that in Mexico (it's population will double in 20 years unless checked.) There is an irreversible push over the border which is inadequately guarded by only about 350 in the border patrol.

The illegals, in short, are taking jobs from Americans with unemployment at 9 .4 percent. Will America close the ''half open door?''

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