Discussion in 'Testing Area' started by SanJoaquinSooner, Aug 6, 2009.
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What happened to the millions of immigrants granted legal status under Ronald Reagan?
In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, a piece of legislation granting legal status to undocumented immigrants in the United States that was both more sweeping in ambition and smaller in scale than Barack Obama's executive action last week. The bill was more ambitious in that it sought to create a definitive solution to immigration (that, obviously, did not pan out). It was smaller in scale in that it ultimately touched fewer immigrants than Obama's action could today.
Three million undocumented immigrants applied for legal status under IRCA. Ultimately, about 2.7 million received it. Because the bill required immigrants to have entered the country prior to 1982, beneficiaries of that amnesty who have stayed in the U.S. have now been here more than three decades. Their lives, in short, could reveal a lot about the long-term and inter-generational consequences of legalization.
So what do we know about what happened to that earlier wave of immigrants? Only a little bit -- and hardly enough to measure the impact of a massive government policy change. The Department of Labor sponsored two survey studies following up on several thousand of the IRCA immigrants -- in 1989 and then again in 1992, five years after the law went into effect.
Those studies suggested that immigrants made significant wage gains in the years after legalization, many of them by obtaining better jobs. Government records also revealed over time how many of them became naturalized citizens. In 1996, the year the entire IRCA cohort was eligible, a quarter of a million were naturalized. By 2001, one-third of the entire group had been.
These naturalization rates suggest that many immigrants may not have been looking for citizenship so much as economic stability. That trend, too, is in keeping with what many immigrants say of their long-term intentions.
"When you talk to immigrants, many of them say that they plan in the long run to return home, to retire back to Mexico, to Central America," says Marc Rosenblum, the deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Program at the Migration Policy Institute. "They’re looking for short-term security."
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