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Since the passing of the Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 6 million illegal aliens have received amnesty in the United States. The IRCA Amnesty was supposed to "wipe the slate clean" and instead it's lead to the current situation of 12-20 million illegal aliens living in the country.

The Seven Amnesties Passed by Congress
1. Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 1986: A blanket amnesty for some 2.7 million illegal aliens
2. Section 245(i) Amnesty, 1994: A temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens
3. Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty, 1997: An extension of the rolling amnesty created in 1994
4. Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty, 1997: An amnesty for close to one million illegal aliens from Central America
5. Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA), 1998: An amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti
6. Late Amnesty, 2000: An amnesty for some illegal aliens who claim they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty, an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens
7. LIFE Act Amnesty, 2000: A reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty, an estimated 900,000 illegal aliens

Immigration Reform and Contral Act Amnesties

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Amnesty No. 1-  Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), 1986 also known as the Simpson-Mazzoli Act

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was enacted by Congress in response to the large and rapidly growing illegal alien population in the United States. The final bill was the result of a dramatic compromise between those who wanted to reduce illegal immigration into the United States and those who wanted to "wipe the slate clean" for those illegals already living here by granting them legal residence. As enacted, IRCA included a massive amnesty program for two main categories of illegal aliens:

1) those who could show that they had resided illegally in the United States continuously since at least January 1, 1982; and

2) those who had worked as agricultural workers for at least 90 days between May 1, 1985 and May 1, 1986.

As a "balance" to this huge amnesty, IRCA also included several provisions designed to: strengthen the enforcement of immigration laws (including sanctions for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens); increase border controls; and create a program to verify the immigration status of aliens applying for certain welfare benefits.

The IRCA amnesty has been tied to terrorism. Mahmud Abouhalima, a leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was legalized as a seasonal agricultural worker as part of the 1986 IRCA amnesty. This allowed him to travel abroad, including several trips to Afghanistan, where he received terrorist training.

NOTE: In the 1990 Immigration Act, an additional 160,000 spouses and minor children of aliens amnestied under IRCA were granted amnesty as well. These 160,000 aliens are not included in the total numeric impact of the amnesty.

In addition, another 350,000 illegal aliens who were initially disqualified from the 1986 IRCA amnesty because they had traveled abroad while in the U.S. illegally may qualify for amnesty under proposed settlements in lawsuits resulting after the 1986 amnesty.

The 10-year impact of both the SAW and general amnesty in the Immigration Reform and Control Act was 2,684,892. The computation for the total number of immigrants to be added by this amnesty can be found on this chart.

Amnesty No. 6 - Late Amnesty, 2000: An amnesty for some illegal aliens who claim they should have been amnestied under the 1986 IRCA amnesty.

This amnesty was the result of an agreement between the Clinton White House, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. The "late amnesty" allowed all illegal aliens who had been part of lawsuits claiming that they have been illegal aliens since before 1982 and should have received amnesty under the 1986 IRCA amnesty but for various reasons were denied, to renew their request for the amnesty.

The Late Amnesty of 2000 is expected to apply to an estimated 400,000 illegal aliens. 

Section 245(i) Amnesties

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Amnesty No. 2 - Immigration and Nationality Act,  Section 245(i) Amnesty, 1994: A temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens

Section 245(i) was added to immigration law when Congress passed this de facto amnesty as part of the FY 1995 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill. Section 245(i) went into effect at the beginning of FY 1995 and was scheduled to sunset at the end of FY 1997 (Sep. 30, 1997).

In nearly all cases, a person must be an illegal alien to benefit from Section 245(i). There are two major kinds of illegal aliens who benefit: (1) Those who entered the country illegally. (2) Those who entered legally on visas but then violated the terms of their visa. Read what Section 245(i) actually does.

The INS estimates that at the end of FY 1997, Section 245(i) applications had resulted in an increase of 578,000 in the adjustment of status application backlog. This does not include Section 245(i) applicants whose status had already been adjusted as the INS does not track that separately.

Amnesty No. 3 - Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty of 1997

President Clinton twice signed continuing resolutions to extend the September 30, 1997 expiration date of Section 245(i). The first continuing resolution extended the deadline until October 23, 1997 and the second continuing resolution extended Section 245(i) until November 7, 1997. Section 245(i) was then further extended until January 14, 1998 by Congress as part of the conference report to H.R. 2267.

Amnesty No. 7- LIFE ACT Amnesty, 2000: A reinstatement of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty

The LIFE Act of 2000 that was passed in December, 2000 reinstated Section 245(i) for the first four months of 2001 (Jan-April).

The House Immigration Subcommittee estimates that 900,000 aliens applied for adjustment of status in the first full year of the reinstatement.

Nation-Specific Amnesties

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Amnesty No. 4 - Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty, 1997

The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) is an amnesty program for certain Nicaraguans and Cubans, and a de facto amnesty for certain Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Eastern Europeans.

The original bills that were introduced in the House and the Senate, H.R. 2302 and S. 1976, would have benefited only certain Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans. Cubans and Eastern Europeans were added later to mollify the anti-Communist sentiments of some members of Congress. At the same time, opponents of the amnesty tried to negotiate a requirement that the number of aliens granted legal residence under NACARA be subtracted from legal immigration ceilings, but managed only to secure minor reductions in the unskilled worker and lottery categories. In order to avoid lengthy debate on the costs and benefits of the amnesty and to ensure adequate support for it, the bill language was added as an amendment to the appropriations bill for the District of Columbia (H.R. 2607) and passed as part of that bill.

Nicaraguans and Cubans who have lived in the United States illegally since 1995, along with their spouses and unmarried children, were automatically granted legal resident status under NACARA, as long as they apply by April 1, 2000.

The 10-year impact of the NACARA Amnesty on U.S. population growth is estimated to be 966,480. The computation of the total number of immigrants to be added by this amnesty can be found in this report.

Amnesty No. 5 - Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA), 1998

The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA) is an amnesty program for Haitians. It was passed in the aftermath of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), when representatives of a long list of nationalities not included in NACARA claimed that it was discriminatory to refuse them the same special treatment. Haitians are the first group to succeed with this claim. As with NACARA, proponents of HRIFA sought to avoid a full congressional debate of the bill and so added it as an amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 1999 (H.R. 4328), which was passed by both houses of Congress.

HRIFA grants permanent resident status to any Haitians who have been in the United States since December 1995, along with their spouses and children, as long as they apply before April 1, 2000. Haitians granted amnesty under HRIFA will not be counted against legal immigration ceilings, and no legal immigration ceilings will be reduced to make up for the extra number of permanent immigrants.

The 10-year impact of the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act on U.S. Population growth is estimated to be 125,000. The computation of the total number of immigrants to be added by this amnesty can be found in this report.
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