Contrasts Between the IRCA Legalization and the Administration's Dream

By David North on June 15, 2012

Today's announcement of an amnesty for some young illegal immigrants foreshadows tomorrow's administrative nightmares for the Department of Homeland Security, its staff, and for the large numbers of applicants, legitimate or not.

I say this based on the two years I spent watching every move of the legalization programs that were spawned by the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. I headed a small staff monitoring that somewhat similar program for the Ford Foundation.

Setting aside, for the moment, the major constitutional and funding concerns articulated by Mark Krikorian in previous blogs here and here, the sheer logistics of running such a program, with so little notice, and with such massive opportunities for fraud, should be giving administration officials ulcers.

Here are some of the contrasts between the proposed "Deferred Action" just announced by Secretary Janet Napolitano and the IRCA legalization program:

  • IRCA was clearly constitutional, being passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President; the Dream scheme is not;

  • IRCA was fully funded from the start through fees placed on its applicants; there appears to be no new source of funds for the Dream scheme's administration;

  • IRCA operations started a full six months after the law was enacted; some parts of the Dream scheme are to be implemented immediately (for a handful of people now on the edge of deportation) and other parts are to start 60 days from now;

  • INS was openly planning a big legalization program months before it was signed into law; if USCIS has been doing the same thing, it's been a big secret;

  • On the other hand, the eligible population will be smaller this time than in the IRCA days, though my educated guess is that the problems of fraud will be equally severe.

A subsequent blog will outline some of the fraud challenges.