Amnesty and Illegal Immigration

A common complaint against giving illegal immigrants “amnesty” (and, by the way, the recent “amnesty” proposals aren’t really amnesty), is that giving immigrants clemency will incentivize more illegal immigration. The logic is appealing: If immigrants aren’t punished for braking the law, others will be encouraged to keep breaking it. If there are no consequences, why not?

But these fears are not borne out in the data. A working paper by American University has concluded Reagans 1986 amnesty reduced the number of border apprehensions (a proxy for illegal migrant crossings).

Even if the conclusion of the report is disbelieved, research generally finds no effect between amnesties and illegal immigrant crossings.

Either way, demographic and economic factors influence the number of incoming migrants much more than any amnesty program ever could.


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