Immigration Reform Act Of 1986's Failure To Fix And Control Illegal Immigration Reform

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Immigration Reform Act of 1986's failure to fix and control illegal immigration reform

Immigration Reform Act of 1986's failure to fix and control illegal immigration reform

Thesis Statement

The Immigration Reform Act of 1986 failed to repair the ineffective immigration system due to the lack of enforcement and poor structure.


The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) is legitimately seen as a failure by those favoring enforcement of American laws and by many Americans more generally. Additionally, conservatives look back and see themselves as having been deceived. The failure part is easy enough to understand and document. After IRCA became law in 1986, approximately 2.7 million illegal aliens took advantage of its provisions to gain legal status. The number of illegal aliens in this country is now estimated at somewhere between 11 and 12 million. The United States has struggled with the issue of unauthorized immigration and immigration reform before(Donato, 1992). The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was the product of that struggle, and provides valuable lessons as immigration reform options are considered today. IRCA was the first and most comprehensive legislation in United States immigration policy to take on the issue of unauthorized migration, utilizing both legalization programs to regularize migrants already in the country and stronger enforcement mechanisms to prevent new entries. The debate that led to IRCA lasted over a decade, with forms of the eventual bill by Congressman Mazzoli and Senator Simpson proposed in the Congress as early as 1982. The reform that was eventually passed was the product of four sets of political compromises.

Critical Analysis

The 1986 law was passed “to effectively control unauthorized immigration to the United States” (Conference Committee Report 99-1000, p. 1). It is based on beliefs that a sovereign nation needs to control its borders, that U.S. borders are out of control, and that those aliens who cross them seek income through employment. The main thrust of the law is therefore to reduce job opportunities for unauthorized aliens by prohibiting employers from hiring them. Although it affects all employers and employees in the nation, the act will have its greatest impact on illegal aliens and their employers, many of whom farm in California. Under the act, employers are now prohibited from hiring unauthorized aliens, but many aliens who have lived or worked here illegally can acquire legal status(Langbein, 2006). Special provisions in the law are designed to assist producers of perishable crops in making the transition to a legal workforce, and in general, the law contains measures to soften and defer the more substantial adjustments it requires. The law became effective when signed November 6, 1986, but it gives employers, aliens, and agencies time to learn and adjust to what it requires of them. The U.S. Department of Justice (Attorney General), in cooperation with the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, Health and Human Services, Commerce, and State, has until June 1, 1987, to disseminate forms and information about the law. Drafts of regulations, forms, and procedures are currently being circulated for public ...
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