Amnesty for illegal aliens, legalization and comprehensive immigration reform

by Fred Elbel

An amnesty is a reward to those breaking the law. Giving amnesty to illegal aliens forgives their act of illegally entering the United States and in addition forgives related illegal activities such as driving illegally and working using false documents. An amnesty results in large numbers of foreigners who illegally entered the United States being given legal status as a reward for breaking the law. Amnesties encourage additional illegal immigration into the United States.

Politicians and the mainstream media often use code phrases to refer to amnesty for illegal aliens, such as "legalization for undocumented immigrants", "earned legal status", "earned path to citizenship", "pathway to citizenship",  "comprehensive immigration reform", and "legal status for illegal immigrants". Terminology is used to obscure the issue.

Indeed, the first objective of incremental amnesty proponents is basic legalization of illegal aliens. Even though a full amnesty may not be granted, allowing illegal aliens to live, go to school, and work in the United States - legally - achieves the fundamental objective of giving illegal aliens legal status. Thus, when questioning elected public servants on their position on amnesty, one must really ask them for their position on legalization for illegal aliens in order to get a definitive reply.

The 2013 version of amnesty for illegal aliens is the "Gang of 8" Senate Bill 744, "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act", introduced on April 16, 2013. This is the worst amnesty bill in United States History.

The United states, for over 200 years, gave amnesty only in individual cases and never to large numbers of illegal aliens. Then in 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) giving amnesty to all illegal aliens who had evaded law enforcement for at least four years or who were working illegally in agriculture.

The 1986 amnesty resulted in 2.8 million illegal aliens being admitted as legal immigrants to the United States. Because of chain migration, those granted amnesty subsequently brought in an additional 142,000 dependents - relatives brought in to the United States to join family members now amnestied.

The amnesty of 1986 was clearly stated by Congress to be a "one time only" amnesty. Yet including the 1986 amnesty, Congress has passed a total of 7 amnesties for illegal aliens:

  • The Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA) Amnesty of 1986 - the "one-time only" blanket amnesty for some 2.8 million illegal aliens. The Act amnestied long-term illegal aliens who paid fees, passed criminal background checks, and took English classes and classes on US history and civics. This Act for the first time prohibited employment of illegal aliens. Enforcement was specified in the Act, but was virtually ignored. Indeed, in 2004, only three employers in the entire nation were fined for hiring illegal aliens.
  • Section 245(i) The Amnesty of 1994 - a temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens.
  • Section 245(i) The Extension Amnesty of 1997 - an extension of the rolling amnesty created in 1994.
  • The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty of 1997 - an amnesty for nearly one million illegal aliens from Central America.
  • The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA) of 1998 - an amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti.
  • The Late Amnesty of 2000 - an amnesty for approximately 400,000 illegal aliens who claimed they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty.
  • The LIFE Act Amnesty of 2000 - a reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty to an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens.

    (For more information, see The Seven Amnesties Passed by Congress,

In 2007, Ted Kennedy and John McCain floated yet another amnesty for illegal aliens under the Bush administration. It collapsed due to conservative Republican opposition and immense pressure from the American people who saw it for the sham that it was.

In 2013, the Gang of 8 tried to force yet another gang amnesty for illegal aliens upon the American People. As the Russians say, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

On November 20, 2014, President Obama, in an unconstitutional royal decree, declared amnesty for 5 million illegal aliens.

It must be noted that:

An amnesty benefits neither our society nor those being amnestied, but it does benefit employers who hire low-wage immigrant labor. An Immigration and Naturalization Service study found that after living in the United States for 10 years, the average amnestied illegal alien had only a seventh grade education and earned less than $9,000 a year. Amnestied illegal aliens have no sponsor to support them financially. Instead, by enacting an amnesty, Congress places a staggering financial burden on American taxpayers to support those amnestied.

The total net cost of the 1986 IRCA amnesty (direct and indirect costs of services and benefits to the former illegal aliens, less their tax contributions) amounted to over $78 billion in the ten years following the amnesty. (Center for Immigration Studies study).

Congress has paved the way for more amnesties. In 2001, Mexico's President Vicente Fox began to lobby the United States to "regularize" the status of millions of illegal aliens from Mexico living in the United States. Both U.S. political parties, in attempts to pander to the Hispanic vote, speak of amnesties in various forms for illegal aliens. The Democratic Party wants the immigrant vote and the Republican Party wants cheap labor. Neither wants what is best for our country - to uphold our rule of law.

By granting amnesties, Congress has set a dangerous precedent that threatens homeland security. Our normal immigration process involves screening to block potential criminals and terrorists from entering the United States. Yet millions of illegal aliens have avoided this screening and an amnesty would allow them to permanently bypass such screening.

Census Bureau 2000 data indicate that 700,000 to 800,000 illegal aliens settle in the U.S. each year, with approximately 8-11 million illegal aliens now currently living in the United States (up to 12 million, according to Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge). Note that the stale and deliberately underestimated government figure of 11 million is not reliable. Researchers have estimated up to 40 million illegal aliens to be living in the United States.

In January, 2004 President Bush Proposed a guest worker program for illegal aliens - an amnesty in disguise. He revived this proposal in November, 2004, just after the election. President Bush's announcement directly caused at least a 15% to 25% increase in illegals entering the United States. (See The Promise of Amnesty.)

Numerous polls showed that nearly 70% of Americans oppose amnesty for all illegal aliens and that Hispanics were less likely to reelect President Bush because he supported amnesty.

Amnesty is but one aspect of the Congress' policy of opening US borders to foreign job seekers. Deliberately not enforcing immigration law is another. See Enforcement of immigration law - or lack thereof.



1. Before Considering Another Amnesty, Look at IRCA’s Lessons, Center for Immigration Studies, January, 2015.

2. Revaluating the 1989 Report "The U.S. Alien Legalization Program", Center for Immigration Studies, March, 2015.

Author: Fred Elbel