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1986 ‘Amnesty Act’ Appears Illegals Paid No Fines, No Back Taxes

November 13th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments
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Nov. 13, 2014 original publish date
Nov. 30, 2014 Update/ edit
Dec. 1, 2014 Update: expanded article (linked all references to 1986 ‘Amnesty Act’)
May 12, 2015 Update.

Young "Children" Arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Photo. (Uncreditied. Please advise for credit)

Young “Children” Arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Photo. (Uncreditied. Please advise for credit)

1986 ‘Amnesty Act’ Appears Illegals Paid No Fines, No Back Taxes

original article written by Net Advisor

WASHINGTON DC. With the hot topic of illegal immigration being pushed by President Obama, we looked back at the 1986 “amnesty law” to see exactly what actually happened with the passage of amnesty to illegal aliens in the USA.

Formally, the law in discussion is called: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 or “IRCA.” From a legal citation, it is refereed to Public Law 99-603, NOV. 6, 1986, 100 STAT. 3359.) [See or share link only. See local PDF of the law, 88pps].

[1] The 1986 Path to Amnesty

Some websites (example 1, example 2) claim that illegal aliens had to ‘pay a fine, back taxes, prove that they were in the USA before Jan. 1, 1982,’ or had “a minimal knowledge about U.S. history, government, and the English language.” One of the mentioned websites, the writer claims to be an ‘immigration issues expert,’ but whose background is English/journalism. I’m not an immigration expert either, nor a lawyer, but I was taught to cite sources when making claims; so let’s look at what the actual law states and review government documents.

How to Get Amnesty in 1986
Officially speaking, all amnesty applicants had to show they knew something in English, some U.S. history, and U.S. government, or they are perusing a course in such. Illegal alien criminals who wanted amnesty could not have been convicted of any felony, or have more than three misdemeanors.

(C) ADMISSIBLE AS IMMIGRANT. – The alien must establish
that he-

(i) is admissible to the United States as an immigrant,
except as otherwise provided under subsection
(d)(2), and

(ii) has not been convicted of any felony or three or
more misdemeanors committed in the United States. (IRCA p37)


(i) IN GENERAL. – The alien must demonstrate that
he either- “U) meets the requirements of section 312 (relating
to minimal understanding of ordinary English ·
and a knowledge and understanding of the history
and government of the United States), or

(II) is satisfactorily pursuing a course of study ,
(recognized by the Attorney General) to achieve
such an understanding of English and such a
knowledge and understanding of the history and
government of the United States.” (IRCA p38)

What was the basis to demonstrate that these prerequisite requirements were satisfied prior to gaining amnesty (citizenship) status does not appear to be written in the 1986 law. Most Americans don’t seem to know their own history, and some leadership in American don’t know or ignore how the U.S. government (Constitution) works.

Yet, the people who wrote the 1986 amnesty law, expected generally non-English speaking foreigners, many with low education and low job skills to have a certain command of English, U.S. history, and U.S. government?

Who checked their grades if they actually enrolled and passed the course? We could not find any documentation to support any of this ever happened. Our view is this education clause was written into the law to appease voters and reluctant bill signers that illegal aliens would somehow get up to speed in terms of education and English with existing U.S. citizens.

All of the requirements of learning U.S. history, U.S. government and English could be waived however by the Attorney General. That much we believe is what happened. Yet, according to the 1986 law, it says the applicant had to be ’65 or older’ to get the language and education parts waved.

Attorney General may, in his discretion, waive all or
part of the requirements of clause (i) in the case of an
alien who is 65 years of age or older.” (IRCA p38)

Enforcement of even a couple million illegal aliens to this education clause seems improbable. The amnesty law was also written to permit illegals to work (IRCA p40) (compete for jobs with U.S. citizens), and grant free travel anywhere in and outside the USA (IRCA P39-40). So who is going to keep track of millions of illegal aliens’ travel and resident locations? We could not find any provisions in the law that discussed alien tracking or enforcement of this section.

Reagan’s Deportation Deferral Was Under Congressional Authority
Some illegal aliens were granted deferred action, meaning their deportation would be deferred to a later date, if deported at all under the 1986 law (IRCA p11, (3) Deferral of Enforcement).

This deferred action was based on the codes and statutes in the 1986 law. President Reagan did not bypass Congress and defer illegal aliens because he ‘couldn’t wait for Congress to act.’

Reagan didn’t go on TV and say, ‘Congress wasn’t doing their job on immigration’ so he (as the Executive Branch) would act like (the Legislative Branch) and bypass Congress’s legislative authority which is unconstitutional (illegal).

[2] Did Illegal Aliens Pay Any Tax or Back Taxes?

The idea that illegal aliens paid a fine, or paid back taxes appears to be completely baseless. Using a full document search of the 1986 ‘Amnesty Act’ this is what we discovered.

The word “taxdoes NOT appear in the law.

The phrase “back taxesdoes NOT appear in the law.

The word “fine” appears ONCE (ICRA P10), but does NOT refer to be a fine paid by illegal aliens as a condition to grant amnesty.

The fines/ penalties are more associated to employers, and a penalty for filing false paperwork or making false statements (IRCA P51, P62).

For example there is a civil penalty for:


Penalty: $250 to $2,000. (paid by the company, IRCA P9)


Penalty: $100 to $1,000 (IRCA P9)

So the penalties on the illegal alien or the company hiring illegals is trivial if caught and if the Attorney General bothered to prosecute them.

The only thing we could find in terms of money illegals had to pay was that there may be a “filing fee” (IRCA P40) of an unspecified amount with their (amnesty) application. If the illegal alien didn’t have the money to pay the filing fee they could get a fee waiver (IRCA P40) so long as they had not been convicted of certain crimes (IRCA P40-41). So, if an alien committed a crime, they probably had to pay the full application fee to stay in the U.S. permanently — to commit more crimes?

Speaking of crimes, a 2014 DOJ report showed (all) criminals tend to re-offend:

“…68 percent of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years…”

— Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics (PDF)

In California, illegals in prison costs the state taxpayer’s $106 Million per year. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to deport alien criminals, than house them?

[3] What Border Security?

The 1986 amnesty law was supposed to finally secure the border once and for all. We’ll we all know by now that was the furthest thing from the truth. The idea of we can ‘secure the border’ and give ‘amnesty’ at the same time did this:

The granting of amnesty was easy. Providing proper border security didn’t happen. In fact, since the 1986 amnesty law, the U.S. saw millions of more illegal aliens come to the U.S., not less.

The 1986 amnesty law allocated a trivial amount of money for border security.

Border Security:
“for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, for fiscal
year 1987, $12,000,000, and for fiscal year 1988, $15,000,000.
Of the amounts authorized to be appropriated under paragraph (1)
sufficient funds shall be available to provide for an increase in the
border patrol personnel of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service so that the average level of such personnel in each of fiscal
years 1987 and 1988 is at least 50 percent higher than such level for
fiscal year 1986.” (IRCA P23)

This is why we hear (some) Republicans, (many) Constitutional law supporting Conservatives and others demand border security first before any new amnesty path is created. Putting amnesty and border security in the same bill in 1986 completely failed to provide border security.

States who thought they could get border security reimbursement funds from the federal government under the 1986 law also got mislead.

[4] Emergency Funds to Reimburse States For Border Security?

The 1986 law contains a clause that says states could be reimbursed up to the funded amount (a trivial $35 million allocated in total) for border security costs. But there are a few things that have to happen in order for a state to be reimbursed for border security costs.

1. It has to be an emergency.

2. The Attorney General (AG) must declare the emergency.

3. The President decides if the emergency really exists, and must declare as such, and certify the emergency to the House AND Senate Judiciary Committees.

So in other words, if you have an ‘open borders’ AG and or President, there is no federal reimbursement money for the states to support funding of their border security. Here is the text of the law:

Section 404 (8 U.S.C. 1101 note) is amended by inserting “(a)” after
“SEC. 404.” and by adding at the end the following new subsection:
“(b) There are authorized to be appropriated to an immigration
emergency fund, to be established in the Treasury, $35,000,000, to be
used to provide for an increase in border patrol or other enforcement
activities of the Service and for reimbursement of State and
localities in providing assistance as requested by the Attorney General
in meeting an immigration emergency, except that no amounts
may be withdrawn from such fund with respect to an emergency
unless the President has determined that the immigration emergency
exists and has certified such fact to the Judiciary Committees
of the House of Representatives and of the Senate.” (IRCA P25. Bold and red emphasis added).

[5] More Agents Less Arrests?

From 2000-2012 the Wall Sweet Journal reported (graphic below) the U.S. had increased the number of border agents, but actual border arrests have declined. Border arrests have dropped to the lowest levels in at least 12 years as the graphic shows. What are border agents doing if arrests (“apprehensions”) are down significantly?

2013 more agents, fewer arrests

[6] ‘No Welfare for illegals?’ Guess Again.

The 1986 law seems to state that government welfare programs would not be available to illegal aliens for 5 years (IRCA P43). After that, any public assistance program would then be available. There are exceptions to bypass the no welfare for illegals rule too (IRCA P44-45, P51-52).

For example, if an illegal alien woman got pregnant, she and her child would have free medical and healthcare and gain immediate public assistance (IRCA P44). Children under 18 are also exempt, meaning they would be entitled to immediate welfare and other public assistance programs (IRCA P44). This means the parents get the money from each and every child; thus this whole section of the law regarding ‘no welfare for illegals’ was self-defeated.

Don’t qualify for welfare because of the 1986 Amnesty Act? No problem. Under SEC. 204. “STATE LEGALIZATION IMPACT-ASSISTANCE GRANTS,” here is $1 Billion (of welfare money) written into the law just for illegals (IRCA P47). Border security? Sorry border states, you only get $12-15 million (IRCA P23).

[7] Amnesty Law Resulted in More Illegals in the USA

Now we get the idea of the 1986 ‘amnesty & welfare law.’ Ten years after the 1986 amnesty law was passed, the number of illegals living in the USA rose to five million with an average of 275,000 new people per year living in the USA illegally from 1992-1996 according to the government’s Triennial Report on immigration (PDF P4, original source).

The government’s Triennial Report also cited (P4) “Temporary” U.S. Visa’s soared 41 percent from 1990 to 1996 to 24.8 Million. Many of these could be tourist visas, however an additional 5 million people illegally took up residence in the USA during this time. This proves the U.S. immigration system was not being enforced. The immigration system was not ‘broken,’ it was just not enforced by federal code or statute.

The (1986 Amnesty) law provided more resources and potential resources to illegals than it did to those who were to enforce the law. Basically, there was massive amounts of welfare money attached to amnesty (IRCA P44-45, P51-52), minor funds for border security (IRCA P23), and little to no enforcement of violations of the 1986 law.

[8] Amnesty Law Was Misleading

The government’s Triennial Report did refer to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act as “amnesty” (PDF P3, original source). Americans were sold on this law that it would deter future illegal immigration.

“Public Law 99-603 (Act of 11/6/86), which was passed in order to control and deter illegal immigration to the United States.”

— Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (PDF – highlighted)

We’ll, the facts we have shown that the granting of amnesty in 1986 did NOT deter anyone, in fact it drew millions more people into the U.S. illegally since.

The Triennial Report also found that between 1990 and 1997, net migration to the USA was estimated at 5.5 million with another 4.4 million more illegals taking residence in the USA (projected 1998-2002). It’s difficult to buy into the claim that there are only 11 million people living illegally in the USA in 2014, when that was about the estimated and projected number in 2002 — 12 years go.

When you start true expanded population numbers such as adding illegal aliens who become pregnant and subsequently had more children, those children are automatic U.S. citizens by law, and potentially eligible for all kinds of public assistance programs. Some have called this group, “anchor babies.” Even if their parent(s) are in the U.S. illegally, their U.S.-born children are not counted as part of the illegal alien population, and not counted as illegals receiving welfare because they are now U.S. citizens by birth right.

The idea of ‘anchor babies’ makes it difficult for government to deport the parent(s) and let the automatic U.S.-born (citizen) child stay in the U.S.

In December 2013, U.S. Federal Judge chastised Homeland Security’s poor enforcement record during a child trafficking case.


[9] Blue State Politics

The government’s Triennial Report also found that from 1992-1994, about 79 percent of illegals lived in six states: California (30%), New York (16.6%), Florida (6.7%), Texas (7.4%), New Jersey (5.3%) and Illinois (4.9%) (PDF P26, original source).

Politically speaking fast forward to 2012, nine of the top ten states where amnesty was granted in 1986, tend to be Democrat controlled states, Texas being the only exception. Thus an argument can be drawn that the reason why Democrats support illegal immigration is because they think it will get them more voters. These people are not interested in enforcing existing laws, they are interested in self-serving political motives.

[10] 1986 ‘Amnesty Law’ Was Legally Authorized

The 1986 amnesty law did not do what it was intended – reduce or prevent future illegal immigration. The law had plenty of exceptions, did not require fines, back taxes, had application fee waivers, and welfare could be available anyway. Despite all this, the law was passed by the 99th Congress in a bipartisan majority vote and signed by the President. This made the 1986 amnesty bill – LEGAL.

[11] Sorry Mr. President, You’re Not a Congress

The difference in the 1986 ‘Amnesty Act’ and 2014 is, President Obama threatened to act alone, bypassing Congress, and thus violating Congress’ EXCLUSIVE Legislative authority under Article I of the U.S. Constitution.

Congress is NOT required by law or by statute to follow any request or “order” from a President to pass a law that Congress does not want to pass.

U.S. Presidents do not have legal authority to demand, threat or otherwise dictate to Congress to pass a law because the President wants a law passed. That style of government is not a Constitutional Republic, let alone a Democracy. A one-man government has historically been called by definition a Monarch, King or more likely a Dictator. Such unilateral executive action would exceed the President’s authority and be a serious Constitutional violation.

The U.S. Constitution is clear as to who has the legal and legislative authority over U.S. immigration matters.

“The Congress shall have power to…establish a uniform rule of naturalization throughout the United States…”

— United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8 (Source: Cornell University Law School)

[12] Government 101

In the current action, the U.S. House is not required by any law to sign a bill that the Senate passed – especially when the Senate was previously dominated by one-party decision making.

One part of government can try and bully the other parts of government, but in the end, we have three branches of government, not one. They all have to agree on a bill; and just because a bill is submitted or passed by either the House or Senate, does NOT mean the bill must be passed by the other branch – or ever.

If the House and Senate do not agree on a bill, the bill dies. If the House and Senate jointly passes a bill, and the President doesn’t agree, the bill is thus vetoed. Then the House and Senate must rework the bill, or have a two-thirds majority vote from BOTH Houses of Congress to override a Presidential veto.

Our Forefathers put checks and balances in the Constitution for a reason; and that reason is so one branch of government would not or could not overpower the other branches.

The U.S. Constitution has clear laws under Article, Section 4 regarding what is the Congressional procedure under Article I, Section 3 if a President or civil officers of the United States violates (Constitutional) law. It’s not politically correct, but it’s the law: Impeachment, {Further Reading}.


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Categories: Immigration
  1. Sammy Wanganeen
    September 4th, 2017 at 06:44 | #1

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