Cover: Undocumented Migration to the United States

Undocumented Migration to the United States

IRCA and the Experience of the 1980s

Published 1990

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.

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

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