Priscilla Labovitz states: "In 1986, when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) ... it forbade employers from hiring anyone without proof of U.S. citizenship or Immigration {and Naturalization} Service work permits" {"No Green Card, No Green Light for Discrimination," Close to Home, Oct. 21}. As the office responsible for enforcing IRCA's antidiscrimination provision -- the Justice Department's Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices -- we want to set the record straight. But first, we wish to laud Priscilla Labovitz's concern about the denial of services to individuals without proof of their citizenship status. We share that concern.

The article contained an often made misstatement of IRCA's documentation requirements. IRCA does not, in fact, require employees to present to employers proof of their U.S. citizenship or Immigration and Naturalization Service work authorization. Indeed, if an employer requires an employee to prove he or she is a U.S. citizen or prove he or she has an INS work permit, the employer violates ICRA's antidiscrimination provision. Such a practice unlawfully restricts an employee's right to present any of a variety of documents allowed by law and unnecessarily focuses on the employee's immigration or citizenship status.

IRCA does require employers to examine an employee's documents within three business days after the employee begins work for proof of identity and authorization to work in the United States. However, IRCA allows employees to present a variety of documents for these purposes. Citizens and noncitizens alike may, for example, present a driver's license and Social Security card that is not stamped "not for employment purposes" to show work authorization. Yet these documents do not show whether the individual is a U.S. citizen or has an INS work permit. An employer who, instead, requires employees to present either a birth certificate showing U.S. citizenship or an INS work permit violates IRCA's antidiscrimination provision, and this office will prosecute any such employer. The important thing to remember is that IRCA gives employees the right to choose which of the legally acceptable documents they wish to present to establish identity and work authorization. Employers cannot prefer one document over others for the purposes of complying with IRCA.

ANDREW M. STROJNY Acting Special Counsel Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices Washington