The Cautious Welcome

The Legalization Programs of the Immigration Reform and Control Act

by Susan Gonzalez Baker


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This report chronicles the design, implementation, and outcomes of the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). These provisions, representing IRCA's inclusionary aspects, allow certain types of undocumented immigrants to adjust their status to legal permanent residence and eventually to citizenship. The key legalization provision creates a temporary program that permits the status adjustment of undocumented immigrants who can demonstrate continuous residence in the United States as of January 1, 1982. A second major provision allows for the adjustment of certain undocumented farm workers through the Special Agricultural Worker (SAW) and Replenishment Agricultural Worker (RAW) programs. The study is based on data collected from October to December 1988 and from April to July 1989. Topics covered by the study include the degree to which IRCA's implementers have met the challenges of the legislation; the legislative history of legalization proposals; the organization, financing, and staffing plans adopted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to implement the legalization provisions; the politics behind legalization implementation; discrepancies in implementation and outcomes; and issues remaining to be resolved.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Joint report immigration series. The joint report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1988 to 1993 that included documents published jointly with other organizations, which transmitted major research findings and final research.

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