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Reduce Legal Immigration, Federal Panel Recommends

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Washington

A federal immigration panel urged last week that Congress gradually reduce by about one-third the total number of legal immigrants entering the country.

But the potential impact of the recommendations on the number of school-age children that would be admitted was not clear.

Many immigration experts said last week that the proposals would likely translate into fewer immigrant children over time, while others said their numbers might not change substantially.

According to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, in fiscal 1993 some 904,300 immigrants were admitted legally; of those, roughly a quarter fell between the ages of 5 and 19.

At a news conference, former Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas, the chairwoman of the nine-member Commission on Immigration Reform, stressed the need to teach immigrants English and civics.

"I remind immigrants that they have a responsibility as well--to embrace the common core of the American civic culture, civic values, and institutions,"she said.

Emphasis on Families

The panel proposed speeding the admission of the spouses and minor children of legal residents to help eliminate an estimated 1.1 million-person backlog.

But it also called for shutting the door to other eligible relatives, such as the adult siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens. Many of these people can now apply for entry for themselves and their children, and barring them might lead to fewer children being admitted later on.

The panel would also cap the number of refugees entering the country, including children, at 50,000 a year. The President and Congress now set an annual limit, which has hovered around 110,000 in recent years.

The proposals are likely to be influential in Congress, and President Clinton has endorsed them. But they drew immediate fire from immigrant advocates who charged that the panel was pandering to political forces.

And one of the commission members appointed by Democrats dissented from the proposal. Warren R. Leiden, the executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, argued in an interview that there is no need to reduce legal immigration.

A detailed report is to be released this summer. The panel issued its plan for stemming illegal immigration last year. (See Education Week, 10/12/94.)

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