There is ''desperate need'' for a bill restricting immigration, Lane Kirkland , head of the AFL-CIO, told Congress here, reopening debate on one of the hottest social issues of the era.
Mr. Kirkland said the labor organization isn't satisfied with the measure that passed the Senate, 80 to 19, last year and was then sidetracked in the House.
With worldwide recession and a total of 30 million workers unemployed in industrial nations, by one estimate, pressure of workers to come to the United States is increasing.
Pending in Congress is the first major amendment of immigration laws since 1965. Many believe that it's now or never for the measure, and that if it isn't passed quickly it will be sidetracked till after the 1984 election.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R) Wyoming and Rep. Romano L. Mazzoli (D) of Kentucky, would impose sanctions on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants; would grant amnesty to several million noncertified aliens already in the country; would tighten the border patrol; and would limit the nonrefugee immigrants to 425,000.
There are doubts as hearings resume here whether Congress will act quickly on the radical measure. Labor groups want it tightened. Employers don't want the responsibility of deciding if workers are here legally. To meet the latter problem a registration certificate is proposed.
''So far as we are concerned,'' Kirkland testified, ''the bill must establish an identity and verification system that is secure and must assure the employer that his good faith reliance meets the law's requirements.''
By one estimate there are 6 million illegal immigrants in the country. Sen. Lawton Chiles (D) of Florida wants to increase penalties for smuggling illegals. ''As many as 2,000 a month are being smuggled into Florida alone, from Haiti, Cuba - even as far away as Pakistan and Bangladesh,'' he said recently.
Though Kirkland argued that the proposed sanctions aren't tight enough, there seems to be general bipartisan approval of the goal. Whether details can be worked out will apparently decide the fate of the measure in the present Congress.