Immigration in America's Future: Social Science Findings and the Policy Debate

By David M. Heer | Go to book overview
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vices Corporation was widely available to undocumented immigrants in the United States seeking to legalize their status.38


How Extending Rights to Undocumented Residents
May Encourage Illegal Immigration

As I noted in Chapter 5, undocumented residents of the United States have acquired a certain collection of rights. In addition about 2.7 million former undocumented residents were able to legalize their status as a result of IRCA. A convincing argument can be made for two propositions: (1) the more rights are given to undocumented immigrants, the larger the number who will in the future be encouraged to come to the United States, and (2) the legalization of status of undocumented immigrants under IRCA has provoked a future increase in the net flow of the undocumented persons into the United States because it has encouraged the idea that additional amnesties will be granted.

In recent years many people have argued that the rights accorded to undocumented immigrants should be reduced. Nevertheless, there may be harmful consequences to the American public if those rights are diminished. For example, since 1987 federal Medicaid funds have been used to provide emergency and pregnancy-related care to indigent illegal aliens. Suppose federal funding for emergency care were to be abolished. One result might be a marked increase in the prevalence of communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis. In Los Angeles, where a high proportion of the total population consists of undocumented immigrants, such diseases could easily spread from undocumented persons to the rest of the city's population. Consider also the law effective in California in 1994 that decreed that one could not obtain a California driver's license without proof of legal residence in the United States.39 If this law is effective, it may mean that many undocumented immigrants in California will drive without a license and without having passed a driving test. Accordingly, Californians may find more unsafe drivers on the roads and a higher probability that they will be involved in a traffic accident with an unlicensed, uninsured, and unskilled driver.


Notes
1.
John Crewdson, The Tarnished Door: The New Immigrants and the Transformation of America ( New York: Times Books, 1983), pp. 30-37, 136-138.
2.
Milton D. Morris, Immigration--The Beleaguered Bureaucracy ( Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1985), pp. 96-102.

-179-

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