BOSTON—Thousands of scientists and engineers who have been in the United States illegally over the past decade after arriving as students may not be able to gain amnesty under an interpretation of the new immigration law by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials.

The law, which promised amnesty to foreigners living illegally in this country since before 1982, is being applied "very liberally" to those who entered the country illegally—primarily undocumented workers from Central America who have taken menial and migrant jobs here, according to various sources. But many experts believe that educated aliens—many of whom are scientists and engineers—are being discriminated against by the new laws.

Carolyn Fuchs, a Boston-based attorney who focuses exclusively on immigration law, cited the cases of two clients, both of whom requested anonymity, to demonstrate the vagaries of the new law. Each came to the United States in the late 1970s from Hong Kong...

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