What is more comic, or sad, than a mustached government officer, outfitted in plaid pants, chasing a Latin busboy, looking a bit like Charley Chaplin, down the streets of our republic's capital, in the name of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service?

Egads, the hunt was on, and assorted foreign nationals fled their place of employment, a restaurant, like patrons of a bawdy house being raided by the morals squad. Fourteen "illegal aliens" were nabbed like so many thieves by the INS dicks.

Tsk, tsk, what were those poor devils doing, those busboys, dishwashers, potato-peelers and bathroom janitor? Why, they were working for minimum wages, paying Social Security taxes, federal and D.C. taxes, and doing the dirty work that most souls in D.C. won't do.

The "help wanted" columns in the papers groan with pleadings to come to work, and yet we have scores of thousands of people on unemployment or welfare benefits, or lollygagging on CETA or other make-work programs. The great federal plantation manager here loves to dispense such money because there seems to be an endless supply coming from taxpayers in, say, Goose Creek, S.C., What Cheer, Iowa and Pismo Beach, Calif.

Meanwhile, across the nation, there are some 5 million "illegal aliens" living in constant dread of the feds. They struggled to get in and, last week, some struggled to free themselves from the hammer-locks and arms-holds applied by INS officers dispatched by Commissioner Leonel Castillo, who gave his full approval and authority for the raid.

Most of those caught were Latins, but there was one soul from Thailand. All except one woman were handcuffed and loaded into a van that took them in for questioning. Eight were stowed in the D.C. Jail, a lovely place, and the others managed to raise bonds ranging from $500 to $1,500. A deportation hearing will be held soon.

Last time the leds struck, one poor Salvadoran was found shivering in a refrigerator. So this time, the savvy officers searched all the bins and refrigerators for such desperadoes.

Why do these "illegal aliens" bother us? Why do they come here to pick the fruit and vegetables, to empty bedpans in hospitals, to haul off the glasses with cigarettes floating in the beer, to swab out scummy bathrooms, and to tend to the children, cook the meals and clean the houses of some of our pious liberals in this city of righteousness?

They do it to make a better living, or to send money home to their families in nations where a month's earnings don't even equal what can be earned in mental work here in one week. Somehow, these "illegal aliens" are afflicted with the work ethic, just as our forefathers and foremothers where when they came here as immigrants.

A Labor Department study shows that in one batch of "illegal aliens" who were pinched, 78 percent were paying federal income taxes and 76 percent paid Social Security taxes. But only 0.5 percent (one in 200) were on welfare, one percent got food stamps, and 3.9 percent were paid unemployment benefits. Their average pay was only slightly above minimum wage, and the group sent an average of $105 a month back to their home countries.

So they are hardly a band of wastrels, parasites or misfits. In fact, the profile is a wholesome one, compared to the run of the populace.

But it is those "illegal aliens" in dirty-work jobs who are knocked around, arrested and usually dispatched like thugs to the nearest border. Professionals - and I know some - who are also "illegal aliens" rarely are turned in or bothered. I know at least two who are making a living off the federal government.

Now, the Carter administration proposed reform legislation on "undocumented aliens," as the government delicately calls them, but it died in Congress. There is small courage on The Hill to straighten out this situation, because a pack of jackals is always howling for the scalps of "illegals."

Clearly we should establish the system that European nations use to recruit and hold workers for difficult, jobs - namely, designate them as "guest workers." We can do this simply by vastly increasing the number of aliens we now allow to hold "temporary worker status" cards (H-2).

As long as there is a need for people to do the dirty work in the United States, we should allow people to come in who are willing to take those jobs. We shouldn't hound them like so many lepers, to be handcuffed, isolated and trucked away to some transport hauling them out of our holy republic.