Archive for 'immigration reform and control act'

Amnesty, which has been granted seven times in the US, is a controversial subject regarding illegal immigration laws. America has had a long-standing problem with workers who cross its borders illegally to find higher paying work than what is available in their home country.

There are many factors responsible for the illegal immigration problem. The US has a long border that is hard to police. In addition, there is high motivation for workers to risk the dangerous border crossing because of the relatively high potential reward for those who do make it across.

These undocumented workers then stay inside the US and generally work hard to make a living despite the lack of official government support. Some people who have studied the worker’s predicament suggest amnesty as a solution.

What do we mean by amnesty as applied to the problem of illegal immigration?

In 1986 a blanket amnesty bill was passed for the first time ever in the United States of America during Ronald Reagan’s term s president. The Immigration Reform and Control Act or IRCA was seen as a solution to the illegal immigration problem at that time. It was the first of the illegal immigration laws to grant amnesty to aliens, mostly Mexican workers who had been living in the US for several years.

The IRCA granted amnesty or legal forgiveness to millions of illegal workers who were then changed in status to legal immigrants. In the decades since the IRCA, there have been several other minor amnesties granted or extended for undocumented workers.

The reasoning behind this immigration amnesty was that since the workers were already inside the US borders, it was better to accept them into the system as regular taxpaying citizens. Mass deportation would have cost billions and was not an effective measure to take.

Humanitarian reasons and fairness, proponents declare, should allow them the rights and obligations of legal workers especially since many of them have been in the US for a number of years and have been assimilated into American culture. They state that if workers have jobs, work hard, speak English and do not commit crimes (other than that of being an illegal immigrant), they have earned legal protection from the government.

Other countries, most notably Spain, have also granted amnesties to illegal immigrants.

illegal immigration lawsCritics, however, assert that most of the American people are not in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants. They point to surveys that say most Americans do not want amnesty and fear that more amnesty laws will result in a further flooding of illegal aliens across the US border.

Opinions are divided as to the desirability and effectiveness of amnesty in solving the illegal worker problem. Studies have been made that suggest that granting amnesty boosts the economy. For example, in 2008 the Kauffman Foundation found that immigrants are more likely to start businesses than native-born citizens, signifying that legalizing aliens would result in more jobs and stimulate the economy.

Meanwhile the debate over illegal immigration laws rages on. One thing is for sure though – amnesty is a hotly-debated topic and the furor is not likely to die down any time soon.

There are currently between ten and twenty million illegal immigrants in the United States. Illegal immigration has become greater than legal immigration over the last several years (700,000 per year vs. 600,000 per year). Seventy-five percent of illegal immigrants arrive across the U.S. southern border with Mexico. The following factors contribute to illegal immigration in the United States:

1. Poverty in Mexico:

Fifty-three percent of Mexico’s population of one hundred four million residents live in poverty (defined as less than two dollars a day). Twenty-four percent live in extreme poverty (defined as less than one dollar a day). There is an abundant amount of people looking for jobs to be able to eat and raise their families. The unemployment rate in Mexico is approaching forty percent and there is little healthcare.

2. U.S. Companies Looking for Increasing Profit:

U.S. companies are looking for cheap, exploitable labor to increase their profit margin. Illegal workers hired by these companies generally receive poor working conditions, very low pay and no benefits. U.S. companies only need to accept identification that appears authentic from these workers. Fake identification cards are readily available in every major city for about one hundred and fifty dollars.

3. Hispanic Vote is Crucial in Future Elections:

The Hispanic population is dramatically increasing and is now the largest ethnic group in the United States. Politicians are aware of the changing demographics and are not adequately enforcing laws that they perceive will not be popular with Hispanics.

4. Lack of Law Enforcement by the U.S. Government of Existing Immigration Laws and Border Security:

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 provided for penalties against companies that hire undocumented workers. In 1999, under the Clinton Administration, the U.S. government collected a meager 3.69 million from 890 companies in fines. In 2004, under George Bush, the amount collected in fines from companies hiring undocumented workers was zero. It is estimated that, in 2004, three million illegal immigrants entered the United States. In January 2005, a bill overhauling the U.S. Intelligence Agency was passed into law. This bill recognized that an eight thousand mile border patrolled by 9,500 border agents was badly inadequate. The bill required the hiring of 10,000 more agents at an immediate rate of 2,000 per year. The Bush Administration ignored the law and submitted a budget to hire 200.

In summary, Mexican people living across the border in poverty see opportunity in the United States to put food on the table for their families. There are willing employers in the United States ready to offer them work, with low wages, poor working conditions and without benefits. For illegal immigrants, these conditions are still far better than the poverty of Mexico. Illegal immigrants enter the country through porous borders. They acquire fake identification on the streets of our cities and work for companies which exploit them. The career politicians in charge of government fail to enforce the immigration laws in place and adequately patrol the southern borders for fear of offending Hispanic voters.

Finally, illegal immigrants and the American people are both victims here. The U.S. government needs to enforce the laws in place and the country needs a coherent immigration policy. Selective enforcement of laws is divisive and confusing. Perhaps, Pastor Robin Hoover of Humane Borders put it best when he said: “Our nation virtually puts two signs on its borders: “Help Wanted: Inquire Within” and “Do Not Trespass.”

James William Smith has worked in Senior management positions for some of the largest Financial Services firms in the United States for the last twenty five years. He has also provided business consulting support for insurance organizations and start up businesses. He has always been interested in writing and listening to different viewpoints on interesting topics.

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