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Agency Seeks Quick Legalization For Illegal Children of Legal Aliens

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WASHINGTON--The Immigration and Naturalization Service, reversing its earlier position, proposed last week that special visas be set aside for the spouses and children of illegal immigrants who received amnesty under the new immigration law.

Originally, the I.N.S. had said that each case would be considered individually.

Now, the agency says it will urge the Congress to allow it to reserve up to 200,000 visas for illegal immigrants who did not qualify for the recently ended amnesty program but whose relatives did. To qualify for amnesty, a person had to have immigrated to the United States before 1982.

The special visas are intended to help people like Lucy and Jose Martinez, two teen-agers from Hugoton, Kan. Their classmates sent petitions to their U.S. Senators, Nancy L. Kassebaum and Robert Dole, when they learned that the Martinezes might be separated from their family because they did not qualify for amnesty.

The students and teachers in the southwest Kansas community asked that the children be allowed to stay with their parents, who qualified for amnesty, and their younger brother, who was born in the United States and therefore is an American citizen.

Under the policy being proposed by the I.N.S., once an illegal immigrant is granted permanent residency through the amnesty program, his immediate family members also would qualify for legal status rather than having to follow the normal immigration procedures, which sometimes take years to complete.

Under current immigration law, the average wait for immigrants from most countries is 18 months. But, for those who want to immigrate from Mexico, like the Martinez children, there is a 10-year waiting period.

Duke Austin, a spokesman for I.N.S., said the agency's hands are tied by the law.

"The law, as it stands now, does not allow us to give special benefits to family members,'' Mr. Austin said. "It's up to the Congress to change the law.''

The law has come under considerable criticism for jeopardizing family unity.

Mr. Austin said the agency is urging the Reagan Administration to introduce the I.N.S. proposal in the House so it can be discussed this summer during hearings on legal immigration.--R.R.W.

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