Immigration Reform: Will 'Amnesty' Produce More Illegal Immigration?

Article excerpt

Immigration reform is in the air. A bipartisan Senate group unveiled its proposals on Monday, and the president is scheduled to announce his own package on Tuesday. Both contain provisions for legalizing some 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the US.

But, just as there promises to be no easy consensus on a final deal, there is little agreement about how much the overall reforms will actually stem the flow of illegal immigration across Americas borders. Critics of the proposals say a path to citizenship invites more undocumented migrants, while supporters of the move to legalize many who have lived and worked in the US for years say it is not an open invitation to new illegal immigration.

Critics point to the lessons from the last time Congress tackled his issue, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), a 1986 law that legalized 3 million undocumented immigrants. Both sides acknowledge the law produced substantial fraud, leading to nearly triple the number of new residents created by the law.

"The message will go out, says Ira Mehlman, Seattle-based national spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), telling people to bring their rent receipts and pay stubs real or not. The situation will be a replay of the 1986 law, only on a larger scale, he says. Its simple math, says Mr. Mehlman, adding, how can you possibly do background checks on 11 million people? It just wont happen.

This expectation sells this target population short, says Jorge- Mario Cabrera, spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). Nobody wants to go where they are not wanted and cannot legally find a job to support them or their family, he says. I do not foresee a wave of illegal immigration, because most of these people realize the political situation in the US is very dire when it comes to undocumented immigrants.

Census data released at the end of 2012 show a slowing of the immigration tide. The number of undocumented immigrants fell to 11.1 million, down from a high of some 12 million in 2007, following more than a decade of increases. A Pew Center analysis of these data finds that there is net zero migration taking place from Mexico to the United States, points out Villanova University immigration specialist Catherine Wilson, via e-mail. …

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