Undocumented Migration to the United States

IRCA and the Experience of the 1980s

by Frank D. Bean, Barry Edmonston, Jeffrey S. Passel


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The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) is the most sweeping revision of U.S. immigration policy since the national quota system was abolished in 1965. Its major objective is to reduce illegal immigration through two strategies — legalizing immigrants already in the country and reducing future flows to the country through imposing penalties on employers who hire illegal aliens. The success of the legislation will, therefore, be measured at least in part by whether the flow of illegal immigrants to the United States has been reduced. This report considers whether IRCA has succeeded in reducing illegal immigration. It presents the most up-to-date evidence available on the size of the illegal population in the United States and its changes during the 1980s.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Perceptions and Estimates of Undocumented Migration to the United States

    Barry Edmonston, Jeffrey S. Passel, and Frank D. Bean

  • Chapter Two

    Post-IRCA Undocumented Immigration to the United States: An Assessment Based on the June 1988 CPS

    Karen A. Woodrow and Jeffrey S. Passel

  • Chapter Three

    Annual Estimates of Nonimmigrant Overstays in the United States: 1985 to 1988

    Robert Warren

  • Chapter Four

    Post-IRCA Changes in the Volume and Composition of Undocumented Migration to the United States: An Assessment Based on Apprehensions Data

    Frank D. Bean. Thomas J. Espenshade, Michael ]. White, and Robert F. Dymowski

  • Chapter Five

    Undocumented Migration to the United States: Evidence from a Repeated Trials Model

    Thomas J. Espenshade

  • Chapter Six

    Effects of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: Preliminary Data from Mexico

    Douglas S. Massey, Katherine M. Donato, and Zai Liang

  • Chapter Seven

    Undocumented Migration from Mexico to the United States: Preliminary Findings of the Zapata Canyon Project

    Jorge A. Bustamante

  • Chapter Eight

    Impacts of the 1986 U.S. Immigration Law on Emigration from Rural Mexican Sending Communities

    Wayne A. Cornelius

  • Chapter Nine

    Undocumented Migration Since IRCA: An Overall Assessment

    Jeffrey S. Passel, Frank D. Bean, and Barry Edmonston

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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