THE CONGRESSIONAL anti-immigration express may have slowed down, but it is still on track. The House Judiciary Committee has now voted to send to the floor next year a bill designed to reduce illegal immigration and, for the first time since the 1920s, also reduce the number of legal immigrants. There is significant opposition to the details of the legislation and to the very idea of cutting back on legal immigrants. But there is also broad support. The bill is expected by both sides to pass through Congress over Democratic objections with ease.
Not all Democrats object to the curbs on illegals -- or on legals. President Clinton has said he can support reductions in the number of legal immigrants. A commission headed by former liberal Democratic Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas recommended last June reducing the existing statutory limit of 675,000 a year to 550,000. The Judiciary Committee's cut is to 585,000.
As for illegal immigration, new requirements for proving legal status and for beefing up border patrols in the Southwest are absolutely necessary if there is to be success on that front. There is a clear consensus that the nation must drastically reduce the influx of illegal aliens. This is not, as some critics insist, racial or ethnic prejudice. A substantial minority of African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans voted for California's anti-immigration Proposition 187 last year. A majority of all immigrants voted for it.
America is and always will be a nation of immigrants, but a nation must control its own borders both in terms of those who want to enter legally and illegally.