Greed in (gasp!) the Senate, the undocumented life, a second opinion on executions, and other matters. ILLEGAL RIGHTS

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Amazing country, America. Where else in the world are so many folks fighting tooth and nail and smiting hip and thigh to preserve and expand the rights of an estimated 3.5 million other folks who legally shouldn't even be here? In which other planetary subdivision would anyone questioning those rights have a guaranteed shot at being called xenophobic? Where else could a Rhodes scholar and Yale Law School graduate get accused of Bosnia-style ''ethnic cleansing'' for proposing a national health plan that fails to include free coverage for illegal aliens? (A group called the Latino Issues Forum press-released that charge at Clinton last year.) Yes, friends, the illegals have lots of rights and lots of defenders, but Keeping Up is allowed only three rhetorical questions per paragraph, so the time has come for an amazing fact or two. For openers, it is illegal -- whoops, make that verboten -- to discriminate against illegals. Before passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), it was settled law in the U.S. that employed illegals had all the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; they could not be discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, national origin, age, and so on. The IRCA somewhat confused matters by specifying that employers were no longer allowed to hire illegals. Oddly enough, however, they are still covered by Title VII in several different contexts. Suppose that an employer pays undocumented Asian immigrants less than native-born whites. When the facts come out, the employer would typically pay penalties for having hired illegal & aliens, would sever them from his payroll, and would write them checks for back pay covering the period of discrimination. Next, suppose an illegal mom and pop have a child while in the U.S., as many of them obviously plan to do. In virtually all states, the mother is entitled to free prenatal care and a broad range of social services after giving birth. In some California counties, 40% of births paid for by Medi-Cal (the state's version of Medicaid) are attributable to illegals' families. Then there is education. A bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that the children of illegals are entitled to a public education, at least through the 12th grade and maybe beyond. The ruling was unclear about college, but legislatures in New York and California have guaranteed illegals a right to attend public institutions of higher learning. We shall rashly state that the Supremes' logic in the case, Plyler v. Doe, was unfathomable. It presumed to rest on the Constitutional right of all persons to ''equal protection of the laws,'' but it was definitely stretching things in asserting that the Fourteenth Amendment required states to provide identical treatment to those who lived there lawfully and those who did not. The social benefits afforded undocumented aliens are suddenly a big issue in California, where perhaps half the country's illegals now reside. The benefits will doubtless be truncated if sponsors of the so-called S.O.S. (Save Our State) initiative succeed in getting it on the ballot this November. Republican Governor Pete Wilson will apparently support the initiative, claiming that it will help the California government to become less broke. The avalanche of anti-illegal-immigrant sentiment in California has led even its liberal Democratic establishment to stake out some hard-line positions. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, the state's U.S. Senators, are pushing an Immigration Law Enforcement Act that would provide funding for some serious border control. But the Dem femme duo seems disinclined to demand any major reductions in the benefits now available to illegals. Why they would wish to seal the border while preserving incentives to cross it has not been explained.