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A 1989 New York Times story, “Migrants False Claims: Fraud on a Huge Scale,” reviewed the unexpected outcomes from the first amnesty/legalization for three million illegal immigrants passed in 1986. They reported that five times as many people applied for the agricultural amnesty program as Congress anticipated, and federal officials were overwhelmed with fraudulent documents. The Times characterized this amnesty/legalization as “one of the most extensive immigration frauds ever perpetrated against the United States government.”
The immigration bill that Democrats have attached to budget reconciliation goes far beyond compassion for Dreamers, which most Americans support. At least seven million illegal immigrants would potentially be legalized with the possibility of eventual citizenship, and legal visas are substantially increased. The Washington Post describes this bill as “the largest mass-legalization program for undocumented immigrants in U.S. history.”
We have a growing exodus from poor countries arriving at our southern border as is. The document fraud industry and social media are far more sophisticated today than they were in 1986, connecting people all over the world, alerting them to opportunities. Given these new realities, how will Democrats implement their mass legalization, avoid what happened in 1986, and stop the next surge? Do they want to stop it? Essentially taking the position “the less said, the better” is not reassuring. It’s too bad. The Build Back Better Act could be great legislation for American families.