Immigration Amnesty for illegal Immigrants
The views expressed on this page are those of individual authors and may not reflect the views of the U.S. government. The information contained herein should be used for information purposes only.
Definition of Amnesty: Amnesty for illegal immigrants is defined as a governmental
pardon for violating policies related to immigration. Immigration amnesty would
include the federal government forgiving individuals for using false
documentation such as social security numbers, identification cards, and driver’s licenses,
in order to gain employment in the U.S. and continue to
remain in the country. Amnesty would allow illegal immigrants or undocumented aliens
to gain permanent residency in the United States.
Immigration Amnesty in the United States: In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA, which granted approximately 2.8 million undocumented immigrants legal status in the United States. IRCA allowed millions of illegal or undocumented immigrants to receive a Green Card, which could eventually lead to U.S. citizenship. In addition, immediate relatives or dependents, which included about 143,000 individuals, could qualify for a Green card. The result of the amnesty introduced by Congress was that immigration grew in significant numbers. Before this amnesty was granted in 1986, the United States government previously granted amnesty on a case by case basis. Prior to the 1986 legislation, cases in which the government gave amnesty to illegal immigrants was done only a small scale basis. In fact, for almost 200 years prior to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, immigration amnesty in the U.S. was granted to illegal immigrants only on a small scale, case by case basis.
When the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed in 1986, it was only meant to be a “one time” amnesty. However, in actuality, many amnesties have followed that legislation. To date there have been additional amnesties that have been granted to illegal immigrants which include:
- Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 1986: A blanket amnesty for some 2.8 million illegal aliens.
- Section 245(i) Amnesty, 1994: A temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens.
- Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty, 1997: An extension of the rolling amnesty created in 1994.
- Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty, 1997: An amnesty for close to one million illegal aliens from Central America.
- Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA), 1998: An amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti.
- Late Amnesty, 2000: An amnesty for some illegal aliens who claim they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty, an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens.
- LIFE Act Amnesty, 2000: A reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty, an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens
- The are currently several bills in the United States Congress that could possibly create an 8th Amnesty.
The House of Representatives and the Senate previously had difficulties reaching a compromise on an immigration reform bill due to to differing beliefs on details of the legislation. President Bush supported the immigration reform bill of the Senate, but the bill was eventually squashed in Congress. In order for an immigration reform bill to pass, bipartisan agreement much be reached in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Along with amnesty, the previous immigration reform bill included improvements in infrastructure along the U.S. border and harsher penalties for businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants. Immigration reform proposals from the House of Representatives previously focused on issues pertaining to immigration enforcement, while measures in the Senate proposed a guest worker program and a system that would require illegal immigrants to pay fees and back taxes in order to become legalized U.S.citizens.
Members of the House of Representatives who were against immigration amnesty claimed the proposed legislation would essentially reward those who have broken the law, citing the need for significant penalties for businesses that hire illegal immigrants. Senators in favor of amnesty pushed for a path towards citizenship. Undoubtedly members of Congress, especially members of the House of Representatives, had concerns about how their vote regarding immigration reform would affect their chances for reelection. After the immigration reform legislation was voted against in 2007, it is common belief that talks regarding immigration reform legislation will not happen until a new President takes office, in January 2009. Immigration reform continues to be a controversial, divisive topic. The general public is also very divided on this issue, in addition to members of the House of Representatives and Senate.