IN show business, and in granting a large-scale amnesty to illegal immigrants, the same adage applies: Timing is everything. To prevent a fiasco that proves the above adage true, Congress should adopt a ``triggered amnesty'' amendment to immigration legislation now pending. With such an amendment, illegal aliens would gain amnesty when illegal immigration was substantially curtailed. Lacking this type of amendment, the Rodino-Mazzoli House immigration bill would initiate an early and massive amnesty well before illegal immigration could possibly be brought under actual control. And in the Senate-approved Simpson bill, amnesty could be delayed no longer than three years -- even if illegal immigration was still out of control.
In their present form, both bills promise a bitter lesson in terrible timing. Granting a large-scale amnesty before immigration is actually under control is as sensible an idea as offering amnesty to draft evaders while a war still rages.
Of course the amnesty now proposed purports only to cover persons who arrived before a specified date (Senate, pre-1980; House version, pre-1982). And of course the amnesty would be proclaimed as a one-time-only event. But unless actual control over immigration is achieved before amnesty, who could possibly believe such a proclamation? Unless control over immigration first becomes an accomplished fact, amnesty would be an irresistible magnet to attract still more people to enter or stay illegally. Enticed by the profiteer's offers of back-dated leases and other false papers, many would come in order to meet the deadline for claiming the enacted amnesty, albeit fraudulently. After the deadline, millions more would come and stay, convinced that a nation as befuddled as this one will sooner or later have to enact a massive amnesty for them as well. They would be right.