Growing Amnesty Speculation Could Lead to Repeating Past Follies

The fact that the Trump administration has not acted on its campaign promise to halt the DACA temporary amnesty has resulted in a resurgence of speculation that the administration may be amenable to adopting a full-scale amnesty. Some reports have identified DACA recipients and some other illegal aliens from Central America with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) as candidates for legal status in exchange for some measures of increased enforcement against illegal immigration such as mandatory work eligibility verification (E-Verify) and border barrier construction.

What appears to be missing from this speculation is the underlying conviction held by most Americans that immigration is welcome only if it is moderate and within legal provisions. The lesson that must be remembered from the 1986 amnesty (IRCA) was that amnesty may have the effect of increasing illegal immigration especially when new measures that are supposed to counteract it are exposed as being toothless.

The only clear message that will deter illegal immigration is that it will not be tolerated and the government and the public have the will to enforce the law against it.

What is forgotten is that not only does an amnesty for illegal immigrants give them legal permanent residence, it also gives them the ability to sponsor their extended family members under our current immigration system.

Even if the president and the politicians do not have the political will to undo the years of coddling illegal aliens – by ignoring them or by granting them some temporary legal status such as TPS or DACA – any discussion of a full amnesty is likely to repeat the folly of the IRCA amnesty. Politicians continue to be attracted to negotiations where amnesty is on the table by the delusional expectation that the problem of illegal immigration can be solved by rewarding past lawbreakers and promising to be tough on future lawbreakers. Despite evidence that the IRCA amnesty fueled a new wave of illegal immigration, another massive amnesty would open a new flow of immigration of relatives who come from the same backgrounds.

If the objective of immigration reform against illegal immigration is to succeed, the pressure for adoption of an IRCA-style amnesty must be resisted.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    if he doesn’t get done what he promissed he will be a 1 term president , every day i lose hope in him,, before i vote for him or a democrat i just won’t vote, as you see , voting is a waste of time ,unless you vote for the ones the establishment wants you to vote for , it’s is a waste of time ,instead of doing their jobs they are acting like babies

  2. avatar

    The U.S. currently has eleven non immigrant guest worker visa programs.

    There is no cap on the number of workers allowed into the U.S. under the H-2A temporary agricultural guest worker visa program.
    “The provision could more than triple the number of H-2B visas for foreign workers seeking jobs at hotels, theme parks, ski resorts, golf courses, landscaping businesses, restaurants and bars. The move is intended to boost the supply of non-agricultural seasonal workers.”

    Alabama had to bite the bullet and hire LEGAL Immigrants for its AG Industry:
    Africans Relocate to Alabama to Fill Jobs After Immigration Law

    “East Coast began calling Atlanta refugee agencies several months ago looking for legal immigrants to come to Alabama for a year, said Mbanfu, refugee employment director for Lutheran Services in Atlanta. He said the company would have taken as many refugees as he could refer. The agency connected East Coast with refugees who had been in the country three to five years, he said.”
    Immigration raids yield jobs for legal workers

    ‘When federal agents descended on six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Co. in December 2006, they rounded up nearly 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants that made up about 10% of the labor force at the plants.

    But the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents did not cripple the company or the plants. In fact, they were back up and running at full staff within months by replacing those removed with a significant number of native-born Americans, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

    “Whenever there’s an immigration raid, you find white, black and legal immigrant labor lining up to do those jobs that Americans will supposedly not do,” said Swain, who teaches law and political science.”
    Amid foreign worker shortage, Bar Harbor businesses turn to local labor

  3. avatar

    The American people will not tolerate any amnesty if there is no enforcement first. This means we get e verify which we were promised back in 1986 to which we never got while 3 m got amnesty. E verify needs to be for all work including contractor and for all current employees. Second no more birth right citizenship unless one parent is here legally and permanently. Third no more DACA / OPT or any other illegal amnesty from Obama or anyone else. They are all gone and no one gets any amnesty.

    TPS was never meant to be permanent and its not the problem of the American people that current and past Presidents / AG / DHS head have not had the will to say enough is enough.

    NO amnesty. NO work permits. NO nothing but deportation

    • avatar

      Not exactly…..this law supersedes your comment regarding birth citizenship…

      And as you know in a court of law they win if a lawsuit. So it appears bets immigration reform to be done to fix this n enforce the laws…..

      • avatar

        No the Birthright Citizenship for illegal Aliens is not in Wong Kim Ark it is in an attached opinion by one Justice and so the interpretation can revert back to the original intent without abandoning either the 14th Amendment or even Wong Kim Ark.

        • avatar

          Richard read again please m understand….do not just say just to say things….thank you

          • avatar
            JOhn Walters on

            I agree that immigration laws need to be enforced, but as a farmer and business man I know that this country would not work economically without this immigrant labor force. At the very least we should allow those working hard to stay legally and those causing trouble to go. Simple thought.

          • avatar

            John exactly that is THE REALITY. Some people that read the news and never got their hands on it OR worked in the farm for fun when children, think the opposite.

            I agree with you. I have seen it myself.

          • avatar

            John by the way the same thing in the Academics and industry in the Engineering profession…….