WASHINGTON — Penalties against employers who hire illegal immigrants are "unlikely" to stop individuals from sneaking across the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a report released Friday by a Latino rights organization attempting to repeal employer sanctions.
In its report, "Unfinished Business: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986," the National Council of La Raza estimated that as many as 4.78 million persons were illegally living in the United States in 1990, up from an estimated maximum of 3.26 million in 1980.
In addition to providing penalties against employers who hire illegal immigrants, the 1986 law provided amnesty for illegal immigrants who had been in the United States since 1982.
The report called on Congress and the Bush Administration to aggressively complete the on-going amnesty program. Some 1.7 million illegal immigrants have become legal residents under the first stage of the program, but many don't adequately understand the provisions of the second stage that brings citizenship, La Raza said.
A controversial recommendation included in the report called on Congress to consider developing a second amnesty program for persons who have entered the country since the 1982 cutoff. "Such means could include a program which legalizes individuals living in the United States when (the immigration act) was passed, or a second legalization program with a cutoff date that falls within one year of enactment," the report suggested.
That idea drew sharp and immediate rebuke from the Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR objected to the initial amnesty provisions in the 1986 law and fought unsuccessfully against provisions in the 1990 law that raise the level of legal immigration and increase the number of visas for Irish immigrants currently living without authorization in the U.S.
"With the ink not yet dry on the Immigration Act of 1990--a major amnesty bill that was pushed by Hispanic advocacy groups in Washington--the National Council of La Raza is already demanding more amnesties and higher numbers," FAIR complained in a news release distributed at the La Raza news conference.
"La Raza may be the worst example of special interests politics in America today," it concluded.
La Raza's 70-page report, the first comprehensive look at the immigration reform law by a Latino-rights organization, issued the opening salvo in the group's efforts to seek repeal of the employer sanctions provisions in the upcoming Congress.
Employer sanctions have failed to discourage illegal immigrants from entering the United States, the report stated. The act's "fundamental purpose had not been achieved. In fact, there are substantial reasons to doubt that its intent can ever be achieved through the method chosen by Congress."
Last session, lawmakers sidestepped the issue of employer sanctions while enacting a sweeping immigration law that significantly increases legal immigration. Key staffers on Capitol Hill and immigration experts across the country say it's unlikely enough political support would be mustered to repeal employer sanctions next year.
Nevertheless, La Raza President Raul Yzaguirre promised to wage the battle, saying repeal is "the number one Hispanic civil rights issue."