Why Immigration Amnesty?

Illegal immigration is a serious problem in the US, with an estimated 12 to 20 undocumented immigrants currently residing in the country. The problem is a complex one, caused by many factors, including a large border, demand for cheap labor in the US, and widely disparate conditions between the US and neighboring countries. Illegal immigration causes many problems, including loss of tax revenue and stress on social systems and health care, caused by millions of undocumented workers using social systems without contributing tax dollars to those systems. As well, Americans worry that some undocumented workers may be criminals who would be difficult to find due to their non-status in the event that they did break the law. To make the matter more complicated, some illegal immigrants remain in the US for many years and start families here, so that their children are US citizens while their remain undocumented and without status.

Since illegal immigration is such a widespread and difficult problem, it is no surprise that there have been many solutions proposed to the problem, including some complex solutions. Some states have suggested random checkpoints to find and deport illegal immigrants while others have implemented harsher laws against undocumented workers. Some legislators target employers who hire undocumented workers while others suggest widespread deportation of illegal immigrants. One option which has been proposed is immigration amnesty. Immigration amnesty would give documented status to some or a large portion of undocumented workers.

Advocates of immigration amnesty say that this solution would fix many of the problems associated with illegal immigration. With immigration amnesty, immigrants would need to register themselves and start paying taxes. This means that concerns about strains on social services and potential criminal activity would be diminished. As well, those who support immigration amnesty point out that this system would ensure that mixed-status families (families where parents are undocumented while children are citizens) would not be broken up. Undocumented workers would become contributing members of US society and an accepted part of society, with the same rights and privileges.

Opponents of immigration amnesty note that the proposed plan sends the wrong message to those who are considering immigrating illegally into the US. They point out that legal immigrants sometimes wait years for
visas to become available, so immigration amnesty effectively rewards those immigrate illegally while punishing those who must wait to work their way through the immigration system. Some opponents of immigration amnesty also note that undocumented workers have already broken the law once by remaining illegally in the US and should not be given the benefit of remaining in the US.

So far, no immigration amnesty bill has passed legislation to become law, but the debate over this topic continues.