CONGRESS GRANTED AMNESTY last year to illegal immigrants living and working in this country five years or longer. To legalize their stay, they may seek permanent residency and, after another five years, U.S. citizenship. However, the new tax law passed by the same Congress stipulates that all seeking permanent residency must prove they paid income taxes, if any were due, in the previous three years.

Obviously, illegals, though working, don't pay income or Social Security taxes. Applying for permanent residency, thus, could subject them to heavy penalties and perhaps even criminal prosecution. Catch 22, indeed.We don't agree with those who now demand that the immigration law should also include tax amnesty. Requiring illegals to pay up merely puts them on the same footing as the rest of us who have been paying, paying, paying. It seems to us a small price for the privilege of residency and eventual citizenship.

On the other hand, it makes no sense to comfort with one hand and punish with the other. Interest and penalties on back taxes should be forgiven.

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