WASHINGTON – A report suppressed by the INS provides highly embarrassing and potentially politically explosive reading for current immigration reform advocates, concluding the 1986 amnesty actually caused an increase in illegal immigration.
The law failed, the report explains, because it offered an incentive for more illegal aliens to come and take advantage of a future amnesty.
Critics fear the current proposal by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and others would do the same.
The unreleased Clinton-era Immigration and Naturalization Service report shows the 1986 amnesty caused a rise in the number of unauthorized entries into the United States in the years immediately following.
However, the report also concludes that the “public expressions of opposition to immigration,” in particular the California Proposition 187 measure, likely were contributing factors in the decline in the rate of illegal entry after 1990.
In addition to the hope for a second amnesty, the INS drew another conclusion from the data as to why the rate of illegal entry increased.
It said the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was responsible for the increase in unauthorized entry to the U.S. in 1988-89 partly because during those years the rate of females entering illegally increased to twice the 1987 rate.
These women entered the U.S. to join their male partners and family members who had been granted amnesty, in many cases bringing children with them, the report said. The addition of the families increased the strain on limited American resources, the report said.
With U.S. unemployment still high and the shrinking of the GDP, immigration control advocates are concerned that the Rubio plan will lead to further budgetary hardship. The Rubio plan is consider by some to be Amnesty, Part 2.
The INS report also presents data that shed light on the apparent decrease in illegal entrants to the U.S. in the early 1990s. According the data, the illegal alien entry rate decreased because the IRCA made it easier for the spouses of Mexican-born residents to obtain immigrant visas.
As a result, they did not have to enter the U.S. illegally, though hundreds of thousands of others continued to do so. The Immigration Act of 1990 – passed under George H.W. Bush – increased the annual number of immigrant visas by more than 150,000 beginning in 1992.
The increase in visas also reduced the number of unauthorized entries; however it did not decrease the total number of persons entering the U.S. for those years due to continued illegal immigration. Based on this information, it appears that many who would have attempted to illegally enter were the immigrants who utilized the entry visas.
The INS also credited the American public’s expressions of opposition to mass migration with deterring unauthorized entries, specifically the passage of Proposition 187 in California in November 1994. Proposition 187 removed many of the incentives to illegally enter the United States.
Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, concurred with that conclusion.
“Look at the impact of [the] Arizona employer verification legislation; look at the government’s own assessment,” he said. “In 2008 DHS estimated that the unauthorized population in Arizona was 560,000, in January 2011 there were 360,000 unauthorized residents in Arizona. At the same time, estimates for the country as a whole stayed the same. This is strong indication that Arizona legislation played a role in decreasing the unauthorized population.”
Both the California and Arizona measures were challenged in federal court.
California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, refused to defend Prop 187 in court. The Obama administration sued Arizona, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to partially block the enforcement of the SB 1070 law.
A national security concern is the Red Dawn scenario. It is unclear how the U.S. government could verify the identities of millions of unauthorized persons in the country.
Critics say the large, unauthorized population provides a hiding place for Mexican and Latin American intelligence agents and terrorists.
An additional danger comes from non-Latin American agents, which include members of Islamic terrorist organizations whose Middle Eastern operatives may attempt to pass for Latin Americans to evade U.S. security measures, the report said.
“You are dealing with bureaucratic incapacity; the immigration system is currently overwhelmed,” Camarota said. “There is no one to the verify millions of identities. Do they know what the documents … from Mexico look like? Maybe. But do they know what documents from Guatemala look like? Twenty percent of the unauthorized population is not from Latin America. Would the average immigration agent be able to verify document[s] from Poland? It’s a heads I win, tails you lose scenario because even when they identify fraud they will not go after the people who don’t qualify, those persons will continue to live in the U.S. illegally as they are doing now.”
Camarota said that like the 2007 legislation, “the new legislation will probably contain exemptions for prior fraud.”
Since 2001, foreign jihadist groups have increased their efforts to infiltrate the U.S. and avoid detection.
Camarota was also skeptical of measures to include the payment of back taxes and requirements to learn English.
“There is no record to make people pay taxes, or if there is a record the employer would have to provide that,” he said. “Even in those cases where you have the records the amount most unauthorized workers earn place them below the tax threshold so there no tax to pay back. The requirements to learn English are not meaningful. It’s something that will not happen. All that maybe required is that illegal immigrants sign up for an English class. There is no enforcement.”