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Amnesty for illegal Immigrants

Amnesty for illegal Immigrants

Definition of Amnesty: Amnesty for illegal immigrants is defined as the government’s pardon for violating policies related to immigration or politics. The federal government forgives these individuals for using false documentation (examples include social security numbers, identification cards and driver’s license among other documents) to more easily get employment in the U.S. and to be able to remain in the country. Amnesties allow illegal immigrants or undocumented aliens to gain permanent residency in the United States

Immigration Amnesties in the United States: The first United States amnesty was in 1986, and it allowed millions of illegal immigrants to receive a Green Card which could then lead to U.S. citizenship in later years. Before this first amnesty was granted, the United States government had only given amnesty on a case by case basis. In the cases where the government gave amnesty to illegal immigrants, it was only done on a small scale. For a period of over 200 years this was how the government granted amnesty, but in 1986 Congress introduced new immigration legislature. They passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act or IRCA which gave approximately 2.8 million illegal immigrants legal status in the United States. In addition, their immediate relatives or dependents which included about 143,000 individuals also qualified for the same status. The result of the amnesty introduced by Congress was that illegal immigration grew in significant numbers.

When the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed, it was only meant to be a “one time” amnesty but it actually turned out to be the beginning of many amnesties that would follow. To date there have been additional amnesties that have been granted to illegal immigrants which include:

  1. Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 1986: A blanket amnesty for some 2.7 million illegal aliens.
  2. Section 245(i) Amnesty, 1994: A temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens.
  3. Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty, 1997: An extension of the rolling amnesty created in 1994.
  4. Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty, 1997: An amnesty for close to one million illegal aliens from Central America.
  5. Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA), 1998: An amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti.
  6. 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.
  7. LIFE Act Amnesty, 2000: A reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty, an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens
  8. The are currently several bills in the United States congress that could possibly create the 8th Amnesty.

Each amnesty has been on a different scale, some granting amnesty to as little as 125,000 illegal immigrants while others have granted amnesty to almost 1 million illegal immigrants. Currently there are plans to introduce another amnesty to the approximate 12 million illegal immigrants that reside in the United States. Critics claim that immigration amnesties entice an even greater number of illegal migrants, since they hope for another amnesty which can grant them permanent resident status in the United States.


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The House of Representatives and the Senate are currently having trouble finding a compromise on an immigration bill because they each have their own version. President Bush has expressed his support for this bill especially that of the Senate, but if his efforts are to succeed then both sides must come to an agreement. Along with the amnesty, the bill includes improvements along the U.S. border and penalties on businesses that employ illegal immigrants. The bill coming from the House of Representatives concentrates on issues dealing with enforcement while that of the Senate also includes a guest worker program and sets up a system where illegal immigrants would be required to meet certain requirements along with paying fees and back taxes in order to become legalized in the U.S.

Some of the arguments from members of the House of Representatives not in favor of amnesty include that it is a way of rewarding those who have broken the law. They believe that there has to be significant penalties for businesses that hire illegal immigrants. Senators in favor of amnesty are pushing the legalization process. Some especially members of the House of Representatives are concerned about how their decisions will affect their chances for reelection. It may be possible that both branches may reach an agreement before the November elections, but there are those who doubt that a compromise will be reached by then and that this may not end up happening until after the elections. The general public is also divided on this issue and some members of Congress argue that this matter should be decided by the people.

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