Study: 1986 Reagan Amnesty Invited a Surge of Immigration, Terrorism, Fraud

by JOHN BINDER 24 Feb 2021

The last widespread amnesty, signed by former President Ronald Reagan in 1986, invited a surge of immigration to the United States, allowed terrorists to stay in the country, and inflated fraud, according to a new study.

This month, President Joe Biden unveiled the details of his amnesty plan which would legalize the roughly 11 million to 22 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S., fly deported illegal aliens back to the country to receive amnesty, and increase legal immigration levels, among other things.

A study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) suggests Biden’s amnesty would result in the same issues past amnesties have spurred: Increasing immigration, displacing American workers, and adding to national security concerns.

“You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to figure out that the massive amnesty the Biden administration is proposing will not produce any results other than those we have seen with past amnesties—only exponentially larger and infinitely more damaging to the national interest,” FAIR President Dan Stein said.

The study reviewed the results of the 1986 amnesty, finding that while lawmakers initially sold the legislation as a crackdown on illegal immigration with a one-time benefit to a small group of illegal aliens, the opposite occurred.

After its passage, illegal immigration levels slowed for about six months before returning to pre-amnesty levels. A decade later, the total number of illegal aliens had skyrocketed to more than eight million.

With that increase in illegal immigration, the study finds, came a spike in legal immigration largely thanks to the process known as “chain migration” where newly naturalized citizens can bring an unlimited total of foreign relatives to the U.S. Since 1990, annual legal immigration levels have doubled.

The impact on the nation’s workforce, the study suggests, meant that more than 1.6 million illegal aliens who were originally legalized as a result of the amnesty displaced an average of 187,000 Americans and legal immigrants from their jobs each year. Public assistance for those displaced workers accumulated to $9.9 billion between 1996 and 1997.

As noted by the FAIR study, previous research on the 1986 amnesty has revealed major fraud and national security implications. For instance, a Center for Immigration Studies estimate found about one-quarter of all applications for the amnesty were fraudulent.

More alarming is the amnesty “helped enable terrorism” in the U.S., according to FAIR. Specifically, Egyptian national Mahmud Abouhalima was given amnesty by fraudulently claiming to be a farmworker even though he actually had overstayed his tourist visa.

The amnesty provided him the ability to travel outside the country, which he used to train in terrorism by traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Abouhalima, now a convicted terrorist, was one of the leaders of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Likewise, Palestinian national Mohammed Salameh applied for the amnesty but was denied relief. Despite the legislation’s promise to ramp up deportations of ineligible illegal aliens, the enforcement measures never came to fruition and Salameh was allowed to remain in the U.S.

In 1993, Salameh aided in the World Trade Center bombing and was subsequently convicted of terrorism.

“There is little reason to believe that terrorists wouldn’t again take advantage of an amnesty to embed themselves into American society,” FAIR researchers state.

To pass the Senate, Biden’s amnesty plan would need the support of at least 10 Senate Republicans, as well as every Senate Democrat and those who caucus with the Democrats. While a number of Senate Democrats remain silent on the plan, many have indicated in recent votes where they may stand on the issue.

In the first week of February, eight Senate Democrats — including Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) — voted with Senate Republicans to block giving stimulus checks to illegal aliens.

The White House, though, has downplayed the plan’s potential lack of support among swing state Democrats who face tough reelections in 2022 and 2024. About 28 vulnerable House Democrats, for instance, have stayed mostly quiet on whether they would support or oppose the plan.