What Voters and Taxpayers Should Know about Amnesty


Toward the end of President Ronald Reagan’s eight years in office ending in early 1989, his Attorney General, Ed Meese, asked him what he considered his biggest regret. According to Meese, Reagan told him that it was signing the 1986 Amnesty. Reagan had been uncomfortable with the concept of amnesty and reluctant to sign the bill, but he was persuaded by “moderate” Republicans that the numbers would not be significant, and compromise was necessary to get the Democrats to vote for badly needed enforcement provisions of the bill.

Reagan was persuaded that the amnesty would apply to no more than a million illegal immigrants in the country. The actual number was approximately 2.7 million thanks to weak enforcement of the provisions of the amnesty and rampant fraud—at least 25 percent. Moreover, the number of illegal immigrants in the country had obviously been underestimated.

In addition, the Democrat and liberal Republican promises to implement the enforcement measures of the 1986 bill were ignored, and illegal immigrants continued to pour into the country.

By 1990, Congress realized that illegal immigration was even more out of control and created the Jordan Commission to study immigration issues and make recommendations to Congress. The Jordan Commission report and recommendations were released in 1995 and presented to Congress in 1997.

Meanwhile, Congress passed six supplemental amnesty bills from 1994 to 2000 resulting in another 3.0 million amnesties, bringing the total to 5.7 million including the original 1986 bill.

Comparing the amnesties from 1986 to 2000 and the increase in illegal immigrants in the country during the 20-year period between 1986 and 2006, for every illegal immigrant amnestied, there were two to three more illegal immigrants in 2006. The significance of this was not lost on Senator Jeff Sessions (R, AL), who pointed out that amnesty for 12 million illegal immigrants could easily result in 24 to 36 million more illegal immigrants.

Here is a principle derived from classical economics and learned from bitter experience:

Amnesties do not stop illegal immigration. They beget more amnesties, stimulate excessive legal immigration, and explode illegal immigration. These combine to explode deficit health, education, and welfare spending.

In the opinion of immigration scholars, the Jordan Commission report was among the most thorough and potentially useful studies ever authorized by Congress. Yet its excellent and still relevant recommendations were ignored by President Bill Clinton and Congress. Big political donors, who finance the nation’s Congressional and state legislative contests, did not want to give up their huge profit advantage of hiring cheap foreign labor. The Democrats also benefited by a vast expansion of big-government-oriented dependent voters. Republican big donors kept their eyes on the huge profits generated by both legal and illegal cheap foreign labor. American workers, their families, and middle class taxpayers suffered horrendously.

According to Harvard Labor Economist George Borjas, the users of cheap foreign labor gain $437 Billion in profits per year, while American workers see their wages depressed by $402 Billion per year, which according to my calculation is over $2,700 per American worker per year. In addition, approximately 8.2 million illegal immigrant workers hold jobs that should belong to Americans. According to the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, (FAIR) taxpayers are stuck with $113 Billion in annual fiscal costs to support illegal immigrant labor. About 80 percent of this is incurred by state and local governments. This cost is an outrageous indirect taxpayer subsidy to employers using illegal immigrant labor.

The economic reality is that cheap foreign labor, both legal and illegal, robs American workers of jobs, drives down American wages, and sticks taxpayers with a huge bill.

In 2013, the Heritage Foundation released a study by Robert Rector that estimated amnesty for 11.5 million illegals would cost $6.3 TRILLION over the next 50 years with essentially no end in sight. That is an additional deficit of $126 Billion per year. Rector found that the average unlawful immigrant household receives more than $14,300 per year in benefits and services in excess of all taxes paid, including sales taxes. The cost with amnesty would almost double because of increased benefits and little additional tax revenue, since their tax brackets would remain low due to low skills and low education levels (average of only 10.5 years schooling).

The economic reality is that amnesty is prohibitively expensive to American taxpayers and a moral outrage against American workers and their families.

The question is frequently raised about what we should do about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, most of whom are not convicted criminals. First of all, the problem may be bigger than estimated. Some believe we may have 20 to 30 million illegal immigrants in the country. Secondly, the innocent illegal immigrant is a theoretical person very much oversold. According to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), 75 percent of illegal immigrant workers use stolen or false social security numbers. The other 25 percent work “outside the tax system,” which means they are probably engaging in at least minor tax fraud or evasion. Are we going to make Social Security fraud and theft legal for American citizens, too? Are we going to make tax fraud and evasion legal for Americans, too? These crimes are normally punished by heavy fines or prison sentences, if committed by Americans. Are illegal immigrants who commit social security fraud or theft or evade taxes likely to make good citizens? Giving amnesty for serious document fraud, identity theft, and tax evasion in addition to border security and visa violations would be a major insult to the Principle of Law, without which any society is doomed to chaos and corruption. In general, illegal immigrants bring higher crime rates. According to a Fox News report September 16, 2015, illegal aliens commit 13.6 percent of convicted crimes but are only 4.7 percent of the population.

Incidentally, immigration amnesty is still amnesty, whether or not a path to citizenship is granted. The cost to American workers, taxpayers, and the Rule of Law would not change appreciably.

Here is something extremely important to remember: Massive deportation of illegal immigrants is not necessary to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. significantly. Simply enforcing immigration laws at the workplace by strong E-Verify and other compliance measures, greater visa control, and prudent reductions in healthcare and welfare benefits now being given to illegals would be strong motivations for illegal immigrants to go home. And by the way, Mexico, the source of many illegal immigrants, is not Hell. Moreover, children of illegal immigrants should go home with them.

For a change, let’s start having some sympathy for American workers, American families, and American taxpayers. America is their home, and our political leaders need to start making them feel welcome and fairly treated in their own country again. Let’s make U.S. citizenship respected again. For the sake of citizens, immigrants, and visitors alike, we must also give urgent attention to national security, public safety, and respect for law and order.

Common political sense for Republicans was proved by an academic study of the 2006 Congressional Elections by Dr. George Harley of the University of Houston. NumbersUSA ratings were used as a measure of incumbent candidate positions on immigration. Republicans who favor amnesty and other liberal immigration policies did not get more Hispanic votes than Republicans with conservative positions on immigration. According to Pew Research about 75 percent of Hispanic voters vote for Democrat candidates because they favor big-government health and welfare programs, but about 20 percent are conservative and do not want big government or amnesty for illegal immigrants. By far the most significant result of the Harley study, however, showed that liberal immigration positions alienated a significant number of non-Hispanic conservatives. My calculations indicate this backlash could easily be enough reduce a pro-amnesty Republican incumbent’s vote by four points, which could be deadly. I agree with Dr. Harley that if more voters paid attention to candidate positions on issues, the results could be devastating to pro-amnesty Republicans. Most estimates, based on Pew and other surveys indicate amnestied illegals will vote 75 to 80 percent Democrat. Any major amnesty, especially a Republican amnesty, would probably make the Republican Party extinct within an election cycle.


Mike Scruggs

Author and Columnist

a.k.a. Leonard M. Scruggs


Mike Scruggs is the author of two books: The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths; and Lessons from the Vietnam War: Truths the Media Never Told You, and over 600 articles on military history, national security, intelligent design, genealogical genetics, immigration, current political affairs, Islam, and the Middle East.


He holds a BS degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Stanford University. A former USAF intelligence officer and Air Commando, he is a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and holds the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and Air Medal. He is a retired First Vice President for a major national financial services firm and former Chairman of the Board of a classical Christian school.


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