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Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 24th, 2020


In 1986, US lawmakers passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), this move gave official pardon to all illegal immigrants who had successfully eluded justice for many years or were illegally working in the nation.

Consequently, 2.83 million illegal immigrants were accorded amnesty and made US citizens. Records show that the pardoned persons have produced at least 142,000 dependents to date. Besides, other legislation such as the NACARA, the Haitian Act, and INA (Section 249) has additionally pardoned more than 500,000 illegal immigrants over the years.

Amnesty continues to add millions of individuals into the mainstream population, indeed, a research conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service made astounding findings: the average person that is offered amnesty had only reached seventh grade and had an annual salary of less than $9,000. When a person is pardoned, he becomes the burden of the state and public finances are used to upkeep such individuals.

Amnesty to illegal immigrants has a direct and negative impact on the economy, a study by the Center for Immigration Studies showed that the IRCA pardon costs the economy more than $7.8 billion annually. Amnesty to illegal immigrants strains the economy, the education system, social amenities and rewards those who break the law (Simcox, para. 3). Therefore, this practice must be stopped by current and future governments if any positive gains are to be made on the economy.

Amnesty to Illegal Immigrants rewards those who Break the Law

Granting amnesty to illegal immigrants rewards illegal conduct to those who crossed borders without the necessary papers or those who have expired visa. It sends the message that one can break the law now, and receive forgiveness later, from the government.

In addition, it makes fun of the official immigration system, in which persons who obey the law wait for years to be given official immigration papers. This amnesty encourages more persons to partake in illegal activity with the hope that they too will receive pardon and become citizens. Therefore, in principle, amnesty to illegal immigrants increases the number of persons living in the country illegally (Ivereigh, para. 3).

Amnesty does not Reduce Illegal Immigration

A close look at immigration figures in Europe over the last three decades shows that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants does not reduce illegal immigration. The tables below show illegal immigration numbers in Italy and Spain the last three decades:

YEAR 1987/88 1990 1996 1998 2002
NUMBER OF IMMIGRANTS 119,000 235,000 259,000 308,000 700,000
YEAR 1985/86 1991 1996 2000 2001 2005
NUMBER OF IMMIGRANTS 44,000 135,000 21,000 127,000 314,000 700,000

Source: Migration Watch UK

Italy and Spain have granted amnesty to illegal immigrants six times over the last 20 years, despite these efforts, the tables show that immigration numbers have increased by large margins. In fact, such amnesty programs have encouraged further illegal immigration (Migration Watch UK, para. 4).

Today, there are between 8.7 and 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, proponents of amnesty to illegal immigrants asset that this is the same number as was ten years ago, and conclude that illegal immigration is not a big public problem as posited by critics. However, they forget that without the amnesty, there would be nearly 13 million illegal immigrants living in the nation.

Burden to the Economy

A person who is granted official pardon is, by the same gesture, accorded full access to state resources. These consist of education, health, shelter, and welfare matters. Once the amnesty is granted, the individual can bring forth offspring, who are partly covered by the pardon. The costs of access to public resources and welfare benefits are funded by taxpayers, a cost that can be very significant.

Amnesty threatens national security

When a person applies to become a citizen of our country, the consular officials screen such a person to ensure that he does not a background or history that could be a threat to national and homeland security. Millions of illegal persons have escaped this screening, and an amnesty program makes them legal citizens without the guarantee that they are not a risk to the national security.


Amnesty to illegal immigrants has far-ranging effects on the economy of our country. Besides depending on public funds for their upkeep, illegal immigrants can be a source of insecurity in our country. Since most illegal immigrants have basic or elementary education, they do not contribute much to the economy immediately after acquiring legal status, hence they drain the nation’s resources.

The 1986 IRCA amnesty led to an atmosphere in which our country has had to submit to other nation’s demands, for example, Mexico’s president pushed the government to declare the status of close to five million illegal immigrants as legal residents. Other individuals have joined the queue and the political pressure to repeat the 1986 IRCA amnesty has heightened on the government.

Individuals who want to be citizens of our country must follow the legal procedures, and those who jump the procedures must be dealt with according to the legal provisions.

Works Cited

Ivereigh, Austen. Amnesty for illegal immigrants. The Guardian, May 2009. Web.

Migration Watch UK. An amnesty for illegal immigrants? 2009. Web.

Simcox, David. Measuring the Fallout: The Cost of the IRCA Amnesty after 10 Years. 1997. Web.

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