A Big Knock on US Door as Immigrants Pour In

Article excerpt

MORE Nigerians. More Mexicans. More Iranians. More Chinese than ever before. Immigrants are flowing into the United States at record rates, both legally and illegally, and they are raising contentious issues.

Are these newcomers good for the US? How do they affect the job market? Do they depress wages? Are they straining state welfare budgets? Did illegal Chinese immigration soar to 100,000 persons last year, as one agency estimates?

Cecilia Munoz, an analyst with an umbrella group of Hispanic organizations, the National Council of La Raza, says "immigration hysteria" has gripped the US. Alarmed by public anger over illegal aliens, particularly in California, Florida, and Texas, US officials are taking action.

Attorney General Janet Reno has just unveiled snappy new computer systems that she says will help the US Border Patrol crack down on people who enter the country without proper documents.

One system called ENFORCE, now being tested in San Diego, cuts paperwork and reduces the time to process a Mexican illegal alien from 20 minutes to just three or four. Non-Mexicans, who now take 75 minutes, can be processed by computer in just 15 minutes.

When fully in place, ENFORCE will help nab repeat offenders and save so much time that it will be like having 48 extra agents on the border in San Diego, Ms. Reno says. Critics still contend that the Clinton White House and Congress are dragging their feet. Just as Reno was publicizing the new computer systems, for example, the Washington Post revealed a classified US intelligence report on a vast network smuggling immigrants into the US.

The report says that Russian criminals, in league with Chinese gangs, are smuggling tens of thousands of Chinese into the US by elaborate routes.

To elude detection, smugglers can take two years or more to move Chinese immigrants along complex routes. They may travel from Fujian Province in China to Bangkok, New Delhi, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, Madrid, and London before reaching the US.

One recent case involved 86 Chinese smuggled from the Dominican Republic into Puerto Rico, a US commonwealth, the Post reports. Once in Puerto Rico, the Chinese could move freely into the US without immigration checks.

Reaching the US can cost Chinese immigrants $25,000 to $35,000 each - a fee that many work off in clandestine US sweatshops. The most popular destination for Chinese is New York City.

While Gov. Pete Wilson (R) of California and Gov. …