The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Saturday, April 15, 1995               TAG: 9504130016
SECTION: FRONT                    PAGE: A6   EDITION: FINAL 
TYPE: Opinion 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   60 lines


America accepts about 1 million legal immigrants a year. Immigration, though not a hot topic in Virginia just now, probably will be a key issue in the upcoming presidential election, because the four most populace states - California, New York, Texas and Florida - are concerned about it.

English-born Peter Brimelow, a senior editor of Forbes magazine and a conservative, recently turned the tables - he called officials from other nations to inquire about emigrating there. According to his new book, Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster, he was told:

China: ``China does not accept any immigrants. We have a large enough population.''

Mexico: ``Unless you are hired by a Mexican company that obtains a temporary work permit, or are a retiree older than 65 who can prove financial self-sufficiency, you must get a six-month tourist visa and apply in person to the Ministry of the Interior in Mexico City.''

South Korea: ``Korea does not accept immigrants.''

Jamaica: ``You cannot simply immigrate to Jamaica.''

Egypt: ``Egypt is not an immigrant country.''

Japan: ``Why do you want to emigrate to Japan? . . . There is no immigration to Japan. There might be three people a year who become Japanese. And even they don't stay long; they try to emigrate elsewhere, like the U.S.''

Brimelow would ban immigration from countries that do not permit reciprocal immigration from the United States. He's following the playground rule: ``If I can't play on your team, you can't play on mine.'' But if we don't want to play on their team, what does it matter if we can't? Our feelings shouldn't be that easily bruised.

Still, some of his recommendations are bound to receive consideration, including requiring immigrants to speak English, cutting annual legal immigration to 400,000 or to an annual quota set by the Labor Department based on the economy's needs, and fighting illegal immigration by doubling the size of the Border Patrol and if necessary establishing a natural identity card.

Lurking in the background of any discussion of immigration is the U.S. government projection that, given current birth and immigration rates, whites will make up but 53 percent of the country's population in 2050, compared with 75 percent today.

One million annual legal immigrants is a big or small number, depending on how you look at it. It's less than one-half of 1 percent of our population. But it happens to be the population of South Hampton Roads, no small pie.

Much of the greatness of this nation derives from the wide range of our backgrounds. Jazz, alone, is a contribution almost beyond measure. Shutting off the immigration spigot now - for racial, economic or whatever reasons - would deprive us of future contributions. Expect a tremendous debate over whether the flow of legal immigrants should be slowed, and if so, how. MEMO: Mr. Lackey is an editorial writer for The Virginian-Pilot and The

Ledger-Star. by CNB