A "family unification plan" that would more than double the number of Mexicans legally allowed to settle in the United States is emerging from negotiations with labor and ethnic groups, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, Leonel Castillo.

Castillo said the proposal would increase the quota for Mexican immigrants from 20,000 a year to 50,000 a year, with the new slots going to close relatives of resident aliens and naturalized citizens.

He noted that it now takes up to eight years for some Mexicans to obtain permission to join relatives in the United States because of the existing quota system. "They qualify to come here and are approved, but they can't come because of the numbers," he said.

"So far, nobody has opposed" the close-relatives approach, Castillo said in an interview. "It's one of the few ideas for increasing Mexican quotas that hasn't been batted down by anybody, and I've talked to many groups -- labor and ethnics.

"I don't know how it's going to fly in the end, but to me this concept makes more sense than any other," he said, noting that it has "a human rights thrust."

Since he became commissioner, Castillo has advocated increasing the quota for Mexican immigration, arguing that it would allow the government to keep closer track of people who would otherwise find ways of illegally entering the country.

He pointed out that Mexican immigration quotas were arbitrarily reduced in 1976 from 50,000 a year to the current 20,000 despite continuing pressure for workers to illegally enter the United States.