Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
|Enacted by||the 99th United States Congress|
|Effective||Signed into law by Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986|
|Public law||Pub.L. 99–603|
|Statutes at Large||100 Stat. 3359|
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), Pub.L. 99–603, 100 Stat. 3445, enacted November 6, 1986, also known as the Simpson–Mazzoli Act or the Reagan Amnesty, signed into law by Ronald Reagan on November 6, 1986, is an Act of Congress which reformed United States immigration law. The Act
- required employers to attest to their employees' immigration status;
- made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants knowingly;
- legalized certain seasonal agricultural undocumented immigrants, and;
- legalized undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously with the penalty of a fine, back taxes due, and admission of guilt; candidates were required to prove that they were not guilty of crimes, that they were in the country before January 1, 1982, and that they possessed at least a minimal knowledge about U.S. history, government, and the English language.
At the time, the Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated that about four million illegal immigrants would apply for legal status through the act and that roughly half of them would be eligible.
Legislative background and description
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Romano L. Mazzoli was a Democratic representative from Kentucky and Alan K. Simpson was a Republican senator from Wyoming who chaired their respective immigration subcommittees in Congress. Their effort was assisted by the recommendations of the bipartisan Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, then President of the University of Notre Dame.
The law criminalized the act of engaging in a "pattern or practice" of knowingly hiring an "unauthorized alien" and established financial and other penalties for those employing illegal immigrants under the theory that low prospects for employment would reduce undocumented immigration. Regulations promulgated under the Act introduced the I-9 form to ensure that all employees presented documentary proof of their legal eligibility to accept employment in the United States.
These sanctions would apply only to employers that had more than three employees and did not make a sufficient effort to determine the legal status of their workers.
The first Simpson–Mazzoli Bill was reported out of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. The bill failed to be received by the House, but civil rights advocates were concerned over the potential for abuse and discrimination against Hispanics, growers' groups rallied for additional provisions for foreign labor, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce persistently opposed sanctions against employers.
The second Simpson–Mazzoli Bill finally passed both chambers in 1985, but it came apart in the conference committee over the issue of cost. The year marked an important turning point for the reform effort. Employer opposition to employer sanctions began to subside, partly because of the "affirmative defense" clause in the law that explicitly released employers from any obligation to check the authenticity of workers' documents.
Also, agricultural employers shifted their focus from opposition to employer sanctions to a concerted campaign to secure alternative sources of foreign labor. As opposition to employer sanctions waned and growers' lobbying efforts for extensive temporary worker programs intensified, agricultural worker programs began to outrank employer sanctions component as the most controversial element of reform.
Reagan Executive Action
The Immigration Reform and Control Act did not address the status of children of illegal aliens who were eligible for the amnesty program. In 1987 President Reagan used his executive authority to legalize the status of minor children of parents granted amnesty under the immigration overhaul, announcing a blanket deferral of deportation for children under 18 who were living in a two-parent household with both parents legalizing, or with a single parent who was legalizing. This action affected an estimated 100,000 families.
On labor market
According to one study, the IRCA caused some employers to discriminate against workers who appeared foreign, resulting in a small reduction in overall Hispanic employment. There is no statistical evidence that a reduction in employment correlated to unemployment in the economy as a whole or was separate from the general unemployment population statistics. Another study stated that if hired, wages were being lowered to compensate employers for the perceived risk of hiring foreigners.
The hiring process also changed as employers turned to indirect hiring through subcontractors. "Under a subcontracting agreement, a U.S. citizen or resident alien contractually agrees with an employer to provide a specific number of workers for a certain period of time to undertake a defined task at a fixed rate of pay per worker". "By using a subcontractor the firm is not held liable since the workers are not employees. The use of a subcontractor decreases a worker's wages since a portion is kept by the subcontractor. This indirect hiring is imposed on everyone regardless of legality".
On illegal immigration
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There have been various law changes over the years that encouraged immigrants to enter or exit the United States. With the railroad, World War II, and agricultural work force demands, many immigrants saw the opportunity to come to the United States temporarily for money or a better life. An increase in legal immigrants migrating to the United States also led to an increase of illegal aliens, especially from Mexico. Most of these immigrants searched for and gained jobs where hard labor was needed. As the immigration population increased American citizens started to worry about their impact on the economy.
The reform did not have a lot of impact on decreasing the immigrant population, "Until 2012, there was virtually no movement in Congress to deal with the problem of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted amnesty to many of the 3.2 million illegal immigrants living in the United States."
"In 1983, the Supreme Court forbade schools and hospitals to deny services based on undocumented immigration status." 
One study finds that the legalization of three million immigrants reduced crime by 3-5%, primarily property crime. The author finds that this is due to greater job market opportunities for the immigrants.
Structure of the Act and relationship to United States Code
Following the Short title, the IRCA is divided into seven Titles (I through VII). Title I is divided into parts A, B, and C, and Title III is divided into parts A and B. The IRCA affects 8 USC 1101. Additional portions of the U.S. Code created or amended by the IRCA include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Parts A and B of Title I: 8 USC 1324, 8 USC 1324a, 8 USC 1324b, 18 USC 1546, 8 USC 1321, 8 USC 1357, 8 USC 1255.
- Part C of Title I: 42 USC 1320b-7
- Title II: 8 USC 1255a
- Title III: 8 USC 1186, 8 USC 1152, 8 USC 1187
- Immigration to the United States
- Illegal Immigration to the United States
- DREAM Act
- Foreign Worker Visa
- Alan Simpson
- Romano L. Mazzoli
- Arnoldo Torres
- Labor economics
- History of immigration to the United States
- Fred Lucas (October 8, 2017). "What Trump Could Learn From the Reagan Immigration Amnesty". The Daily Signal. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Coutin, Susan Bibler. 2007. Nation of Emigrants. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. pg 179
- Branigin, William (March 3, 1987). "U.S. Migrant Law Falls Hard On Jobless in Central Mexico". The Washington Post. p. A1.
- See section 101 of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to create a new section 274A, codified as 8 U.S.C. section 1324a.
- 8 C.F.R. sec. 274a.2.
- John Kruzel, "Did Reagan and H.W. Bush issue actions similar to DACA, as Al Franken said?", Politifact, September 8th, 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
- Executive Grants of Temporary Immigration Relief, 1956-Present, American Immigration Council, October 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
- Lowell, Lindsay; Jay Teachman; Zhongren Jing (November 1995). "Unintended Consequences of Immigration Reform: Discrimination and Hispanic Employment". Demography. Population Association of America. 32 (4): 617–628. doi:10.2307/2061678. JSTOR 2061678.
- Massey, Douglas S. (2007). "Chapter 4: Building a Better Underclass". Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. New York: Russel Sage Foundation. pp. 143–145. ISBN 0-87154-585-3.
- "Immigration Policy". credorefernce.com. Roger Chapman and James Ciment.
- Baker, Scott R. "Effects of Immigrant Legalization on Crime †". American Economic Review. 105 (5): 210–213. doi:10.1257/aer.p20151041.
- Summary of the Bill from "Thomas" for the Library of Congress
- Detailed legislative history of Simpson–Mazzoli from introduction to Presidential signature, also from "Thomas" for the Library of Congress
- Statement on Signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
- September 2006 article by Mazzoli and Simpson revisiting the legislation in the current political climate
- "Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future"
- "Full text of Pub. L 99-603"