You are on page 1of 5

Illegal Immigrants Should Be Granted Legal Status

Illegal Immigration, 2011 "Legalization greatly increases the incentives for formerly unauthorized workers to invest in themselves and their communitiesto the benefit of the U.S. economy as a whole."

Ral Hinojosa-Ojeda is founding director of the North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the following viewpoint, Hinojosa-Ojeda praises the 1987 Immigration Reform and Control Act for granting legalized status to many undocumented Hispanic immigrants who had resided continuously in the United States since 1982. According to the author, these immigrantsfreed from the need to hide from authoritiescould vie for better-paying jobs, build businesses, and contribute to their communities. In Hinojosa-Ojeda's view, this benefited these workers, raised the wage floor of all workers, and added wealth to the overall economy. However, Hinojosa-Ojeda notes that the reform measure did not set flexible quotas to deal with the increasing number of immigrants wanting to work in the United States, so within a few years, the pool of illegal immigrants grew again, sinking wages for many legalized immigrants and exacerbating discrimination against Latinos. As you read, consider the following questions: 1. According to the Westat findings cited by the author, by what percentage did wages for immigrants legalized under the IRCA grow between 1987/1988 and 1992? 2. Besides increased wages, Hinojosa-Ojeda claims that the IRCA gave legalized immigrants powerful incentives to do what two other things? 3. What employer sanctions did the IRCA create to curb the hiring of illegal immigrants who were not given amnesty under the law, according to the author? The recent history of U.S. immigration policy offers important insights into the economic benefits of providing unauthorized immigrants with legal status and the drawbacks of immigration reform efforts that are not sufficiently comprehensive in scope. The 1986 IRCA [Immigration Reform and Control Act] granted legal status to 1.7 million unauthorized immigrants through its "general" legalization program, plus another 1.3 million through a "Special Agricultural Workers" program. Even though IRCA was implemented during an economic recession characterized by high unemployment, studies of immigrants who benefited from the general legalization program indicate that they soon earned higher wages and moved on to better jobsand invested more in their own education so that they could earn even higher wages and get even better jobs. Higher wages translate into more tax revenue and increased consumer purchasing power, which benefits the public treasury and the U.S. economy as a whole. IRCA failed, however to create flexible limits on future immigration that were adequate to meet the growing labor needs of the U.S. economy during the 1990s. As a result, unauthorized immigration eventually resumed in the years after IRCA, thereby exerting downward pressure on wages for all workers in low-wage occupations.

Legalized Workers Fare Better Surveys conducted by [research organization] Westat, Inc. for the U.S. Department of Labor found that the real hourly wages of immigrants who acquired legal status under IRCA's general legalization program had increased an average of 15.1 percent by 1992four to five years after legalization in 1987 or 1988. Men experienced an average 13.2 percent wage increase and women a 20.5 percent increase during that period. And economists Sherrie Kossoudji and Deborah Cobb-Clark found using the same survey data that 38.8 percent of Mexican men who received legal status under IRCA had moved on to higher-paying occupations by 1992.

Other researchers have also analyzed this survey data and supplemented it with data from additional sourcessuch as the 1990 Census and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youthin an effort to determine how much of the wage increase experienced by IRCA beneficiaries was the result of legalization as opposed to the many other variables that influenced wage levels for different workers in different occupations during the same period of time. The findings of these researchers vary according to their economic models, but the results show uniformly positive results for IRCA beneficiaries: Economist Francisco Rivera-Batiz estimated that the very fact of having legal status had resulted in a wage increase of 8.4 percent for male IRCA beneficiaries and 13 percent for female IRCA beneficiaries by 1992independent of any increase in earning power they might have experienced as a result of acquiring more education, improving their mastery of English, or other factors. Economists Catalina Amuedo-Dorante, Cynthia Bansak, and Stephen Raphael estimated that real hourly wages had increased 9.3 percent for male IRCA beneficiaries and 2.1 percent for female IRCA beneficiaries by 1992independent of broader changes in the U.S. economy that might have affected wage levels generally. Kossoudji and Cobb-Clark estimated that legalization had raised the wages of male IRCA beneficiaries 6 percent by 1992independent of broader changes in the U.S. and California economies that might have affected wage levels generally.

Increasing Returns over Time The experience of IRCA also indicates that legalization greatly increases the incentives for formerly unauthorized workers to invest in themselves and their communitiesto the benefit of the U.S. economy as a whole. As Kossoudji and Cobb-Clark explain, the wages of unauthorized workers are generally unrelated to their actual skill level. Unauthorized workers tend to be concentrated in the lowest-wage occupations; they try to minimize the risk of deportation even if this means working for lower wages; and they are especially vulnerable to outright exploitation by unscrupulous employers. Once unauthorized workers are legalized, however, these artificial barriers to upward socioeconomic mobility disappear. IRCA allowed formerly unauthorized workers with more skills to command higher wages, and also provided a powerful incentive for all newly legalized immigrants to improve their English-language skills and acquire more education so they could earn even more. Kossoudji and Cobb-Clark estimate that if the men who received legal status under IRCA had been "legal" throughout their entire working lives in the United States, their wages by 1992 would have been 24 percent higher because they would have been paid in relation to their actual skill level since arriving in the country and would therefore have had an incentive to improve their skills to further increase their earning power. A recent North American Integration and Development, or NAID, research project on the 20-year impact of IRCA shows a number of important long-term improvements among previously unauthorized immigrants. The study illustrates that removing the uncertainty of unauthorized status allows legalized immigrants to earn higher wages and move into higher-paying occupations, and also encourages them to invest more in their own education, open bank accounts, buy homes, and start businesses. These are long-term economic benefits that continue to accrue well beyond the initial five-year period examined by most other studies of IRCA beneficiaries.

Reform Must Be Flexible Unauthorized immigration to the United States initially declined following the passage of IRCA. But IRCA failed to create flexible legal limits on immigration that were capable of responding to ups and downs in future U.S. labor demand. It attempted to stop unauthorized immigration through "employer sanctions" that imposed fines on employers who "knowingly" hire unauthorized workers. Yet it was unable to put an end to unauthorized immigration given the U.S. economy's continuing demand for immigrant labor in excess of existing legal limits on immigration,

as well as the ready availability of fraudulent identity documents and the inherent difficulty of proving that an employer has "knowingly" hired an unauthorized worker. A new, easily exploited unauthorized population arose in the United States during the economic boom of the 1990s. And the costs of employer sanctions were passed along to all Latino workers in the form of lower wagesregardless of legal status or place of birth. This resulted from increased anti-Latino discrimination against job applicants who "looked" like they might be unauthorized, and from the increased use of labor contractors by employers who wanted to distance themselves from the risk of sanctions by having someone else hire workers for themfor a price which was ultimately paid by the workers.

Further Readings
Books Peter Andreas Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009. Darrell Ankarlo Illegals: The Unacceptable Cost of America's Failure to Control Its Borders . Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. David Bacon Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants. Boston: Beacon, 2008. Patrick J. Bascio On the Immorality of Illegal Immigration: A Priest Poses an Alternative Christian View. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2009. Larry Blasko Opening the Borders: Solving the Mexico/U.S. Immigration Problem for Our Sake and Mexico's. Jamul, CA: Level 4, 2007. Bill Broyles and Mark Haynes Desert Duty: On the Line with the U.S. Border Patrol. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010. Justin Akers Chacn and Mike Davis No One Is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border. Chicago: Haymarket, 2006. Aviva Chomsky "They Take Our Jobs!": and 20 Other Myths About Immigration. Boston: Beacon, 2007. David Coates and Peter Siavelis, eds. Getting Immigration Right: What Every American Needs to Know . Washington, DC: Potomac, 2009. Roger Daniels Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882. New York: Hill & Wang, 2004. Kathryn Ferguson, Norma A. Price, and Ted Parks Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010. Otis L. Graham Jr. Immigration Reform and America's Unchosen Future . Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008. J.D. Hayworth with Joe Eule Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and the War on Terror. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2005. Mark Krikorian The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. New York: Sentinel, 2008. Lina Newton Illegal, Alien, or Immigrant: The Politics of Immigration Reform. New York: New York University Press, 2008. Heather Mac Donald, Victor Davis Hanson, and Steven Malanga The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan than Today's. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2007. Godfrey Y. Muwonge Immigration Reform: We Can Do It, If We Apply Our Founders' True Ideals. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2010. Mae M. Ngai Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Pia Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny Beside the Golden Door: U.S. Immigration Reform in a New Era of Globalization. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 2010. William Perez We Are Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream. Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2009. Alejandro Portes and Rubn G. Rumbaut Immigrant America: A Portrait. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006. Margaret Regan The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands. Boston: Beacon, 2010. Jason L. Riley Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders . New York: Gotham, 2008. David Spener Clandestine Crossings: Migrants and Coyotes on the Texas-Mexico Border. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009. Terry Greene Sterling Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone. Guilford, CT: Lyons, 2010. Tom Tancredo In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America's Border and Security. Nashville: WND, 2006.

Periodicals
Walter Ewing "The Many Facets of Effective Immigration Reform," Society, March 2010. Amy Frykholm "What Kind of Reform?" Christian Century , June 15, 2010. Larry Greenley "How to Fix Illegal Immigration," New American, March 4, 2008. Randall Hansen "Immigration & Immigration Reform in the United States: An Outsider's View," Forum , vol. 7, no. 3, 2009. Kerry Howley "Get in Line!" Reason, October 2008. Mark Krikorian "Not Amnesty but Attrition," National Review, March 22, 2004. Marianne Kolbasuk McGee "A Better Way to E-Verify?" Information Week, March 3, 2008. Ramesh Ponnuru "The Immigration Impasse," National Review, June 7, 2010. Peter H. Schuck "Birthright of a Nation," New York Times, August 14, 2010. Wall Street Journal "Blame the Employers," July 17, 2009. Armstrong Williams "'Sanctuary Cities' Protect Murderous Illegal Aliens," Human Events, October 27, 2008.

Source Citation Hinojosa-Ojeda, Ral. "Illegal Immigrants Should Be Granted Legal Status." Raising the Floor for American Workers: The Economic Benefits of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Wa shington, DC: Center for American Progress, 2010. Rpt. in Illegal Immigration. David Haugen and Susan Musser. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2011. Opposing Viewpoints. Opp osing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. Document URL http://0-ic.galegroup.com.cosl.iii.com/ic/ovic/ViewpointsDetailsPage/ViewpointsD etailsWindow?failOverType=&query=&prodId=OVIC&windowstate=normal& ;contentModules=&mode=view&displayGroupName=Viewpoints&limiter=& currPage=&disableHighlighting=false&displayGroups=&sortBy=&sourc e=&search_within_results=&action=e&catId=&activityType=&scan Id=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ3010226281&userGroupName=cclc_sequoias&jsid=

35c261c2411e825e7df7acedce5e322b Gale Document Number: GALE|EJ3010226281