Immigration Reform

Since the middle of the 1990s, IRCA has given a lot to the acceptance of numerous immigration forgiveness laws. The first Section 245(i) Amnesty of 1994, offers a de facto amnesty to two major groups of illegal aliens: (1) those who entered the country illegally; and, (2) those who entered it legally through visas, but then violated the terms of their visa. The next law, Section 245(I) Extension Amnesty of 1997, was signed by President Bill Clinton twice as continuing resolutions to extend the September 30, 1997 expiration date of Section 245(i) through November 7, 1997. Congress then agreed to extend Section 245(i) until January 14, 1998.

The next law, the NACARA Amnesty of 1997, or the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, established an amnesty program for Nicaraguans and Cubans and offered a de facto amnesty to Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Eastern Europeans based on political factors. The HRIFA Amnesty of 1998 established the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act. This law endows permanent occupant position to any Haitians who have resided in the United States since December 1995, along with their spouses and children, as long as they applied for permanent resident status before April 1, 2000.

The Late Amnesty of 2000, an agreement between the Clinton administration, then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), allowed all illegal aliens, who had been part of law-suits claiming that they have been illegal aliens before 1982, and thus should have received amnesties under the 1986 IRCA, but, for various reasons had been denied, to renew their request for an amnesty. This amnesty is expected to apply to an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens. The most recent amnesty law, the LIFE Act Amnesty of 2000, reinstated Section 245(I) in early 2001.

The House Immigration Subcommittee estimates that 900,000 aliens applied for adjustment of status during the first full year of the law's reinstatement. (Michael Lemay, 2002) There are several additional pieces of legislation pending that may eventually be added to this list of amnesty laws. One of the more popular proposals is the Secure Orderly Immigration Act introduced by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and several cosponsors. This act would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and implement a National Strategy for Border Security and other specified border security programs.

The secretary also must establish a Border Security Advisory Committee and provide a framework for security coordination between the U. S. and Canadian governments. This act also amends the INA by: (1) authorizing appropriations through FY2011 for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program; and, (2) reimbursing states for pre-conviction costs. It also amends the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 by authorizing additional funding through FY2011 to reimburse states for indirect costs resulting from the incarceration of undocumented aliens.

If this act is supposed to eradicate current illegal activities initiated by immigrants, why should the U. S. pay for their criminal acts? If these immigrants had been reprimanded when they first violated the terms of their stay in the U. S. , they would not have an opportunity to commit crimes and states would not need reimbursement for indirect and pre-conviction costs. In short, are these amnesty laws the proper method for dealing with immigrants who ignore constant attempts to afford them legal status in the United States?