Last updated on: 5/22/2009 11:43:00 AM PST

Is Amnesty a Good Solution to Illegal Immigration?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

[Editor's note: The terms "legalization" or "regularization" refer to the process whereby qualified immigrants in the United States illegally gain the right to reside permanently in the United States. In most cases, after a five year period commonly known as a "path to citizenship," legalized permanent resident aliens may apply to become naturalized US citizens. In the immigration debate the terms legalization, regularization, path to citizenship, and amnesty are often mistakenly or purposely interchanged. The term amnesty is commonly used by opponents of legalization and often avoided by its proponents. For different definitions of "amnesty," visit the following question on our website: What is an immigration amnesty?]

Is Amnesty a Good Solution to Illegal Immigration?

PRO (yes) CON (no)
Nathan Thornburgh, Senior Editor of TIME magazine, in a June 7, 2007 TIME article titled "The Case For Amnesty," wrote:
"Amnesty has emerged as the pariah term of the immigration debate, disavowed even by those who believe in its goals. But what are the alternatives to letting illegals stay? Deporting millions? Devising other punishments? Doing nothing at all?... Whether you fine illegal aliens or stick them in English classes or make them say a hundred Hail Marys, at the end of the day, illegals would be allowed to stay and become citizens under this bill [S. 2611]. That's amnesty. And that's a good thing for America. Amnesty won't depress wages - globalization has already done that. Amnesty will not undermine the rule of law... It sounds counterintuitive, but with immigration, forgiving a crime may be the best way to restore law and order. Amnesty won't necessarily add to the social-services burden... Amnesty would offer millions... a fighting chance at self-sufficiency and social mobility."

June 7, 2007 - Nathan Thornburgh 

John Kerry, JD, US Senator (D-MA) and 2004 presidential candidate, in a Sep. 4, 2003 Democratic primary debate in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in response to the question "Would you support legalizing undocumented immigrants in this country?" stated:
"Absolutely. I supported and was prepared to vote for amnesty from 1986. And it is essential to have immigration reform. Anyone who has been in this country for five or six years, who's paid their taxes, who has stayed out of trouble, ought to be able to translate into an American citizenship immediately, not waiting."

Sep. 4, 2003 - John Kerry, JD 

Arnold Schwarzenegger, 38th. Governor of California, in a May 16, 2007 press release titled "Gov. Schwarzenegger Urges Congress to Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Increase Border Security," available at the California Governor website, stated:
"I am writing to urge Congress to act this year to pass comprehensive immigration reform. We must find a permanent solution to our broken immigration system, and I believe that this is our chance to restore America’s status as both a country of immigrants and a nation of laws. In California, we face a crisis not of our own making. The federal government’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation is a reality we live with everyday in our schools, workplaces and hospitals. We can no longer ignore this issue or try to solve the problem at the margins. We need federal action to better secure our national borders and to create a temporary worker program that will ensure that every person in our nation is documented. Congress must address the problem head-on by passing comprehensive legislation that secures our border, protects taxpayers and creates a forward-looking labor policy to meet the needs of our economy."

May 16, 2007 - Arnold Schwarzenegger 

Tom Head, Civil Liberties Guide at, in an - Civil Liberties section article titled "Why I Support Amnesty for Undocumented Immigrants," (accessed Oct. 3, 2007), wrote:
"Amnesty, combined with serious penalties for employers that hire undocumented workers in the future, is the only real way out of the situation we're currently in. It is the most decent option we have, and it is also the option most likely to secure the border and end the system of undocumented worker exploitation--which is precisely why our well-funded leaders in Washington have no intention of pursuing it."

Oct. 3, 2007 - Tom Head 

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), in a Sep. 6, 2001 section titled "Haitian Coalition Calls for Broad-based Legalization Program," offered the following:
"Fierce opposition from the conservative wing of the Republican party has caused the administration to backtrack from its original proposal this summer of an amnesty program for illegal Mexican workers. We want President Bush to know, however, that we take him at his word and expect him to demonstrate the necessary courage to stand up to those who would continue denying the reality of the American labor market and its needs."

Sep. 6, 2001 - National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) 

The American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), in a Feb. 16, 2000 website section titled "The AFL-CIO Calls for Amnesty," offered the following:
"Millions of hard-working people who make enormous contributions to their communities and workplace are denied basic human rights because of their undocumented status... The AFL-CIO supports a new amnesty program that would allow these members of local communities to adjust their status to permanent residents and become eligible for naturalization."

Feb. 16, 2000 - American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) 

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), in its website section titled "About AFSC" (accessed Oct. 1, 2007), stated:
"Programs on immigration are based on our conviction of the worth and inherent dignity of all people. That’s why AFSC has consistently expressed support for undocumented immigrants, and has repeatedly called on the US government to grant permanent residency to all undocumented men, women, and children."

Oct. 1, 2007 - American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) 

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative research and educational institute, in its website "Immigration" section, (accessed Oct. 3, 2007), offered the following:
"Do not grant amnesty to illegal aliens. Regardless of the penalties imposed, any program that grants individuals who are unlawfully present the legal permission to remain here rewards illegal behavior and is unfair to those who obey the law and go through the regula­tory and administrative requirements to enter the country legally. Those who enter the United States illegally should not be rewarded with permanent legal status or other such benefits, and they should be penalized in any road to citizenship. Those who enter and remain in the country illegally are violating the law, and condoning or encouraging such violations increases the likelihood of further illegal conduct. The only fair way to resolve this problem is to insist that individuals currently in the country who have violated immigration statutes leave and then apply for admission through legal means."

Oct. 3, 2007 - Heritage Foundation 

Randy Neugebauer, US Representative (R-TX), in a July 2, 2007 website section titled "Randy's Roundups," offered the following:
"Amnesty is bad policy and sends the message that immigrants are better off breaking our laws rather than respecting them."

July 2, 2007 - Randy Neugebauer 

James Sensenbrenner, JD, US House Representative (R-WI), in a Mar. 27, 2006 Bristol Herald Courier article titled "James Sensenbrenner Not Deterred by Immigration Protests," stated:
"I do not believe that illegal aliens should receive legal government documents, such as driver's licenses... illegal aliens should not be granted amnesty and a path to citizenship. This would be a slap in the face to all those who have followed the law and have come to America legally."

Mar. 27, 2006 - James Sensenbrenner, Esq., JD 

Jim Gilchrist, MBA, CPA, Founder and President of the Minuteman Project, in a May 31, 2007 Global Politician article titled "Jim Gilchrist of Minuteman Project on Immigration, Terror, Elections," wrote:
"I think there may be as many as 33 millions illegals in the United States. By granting amnesty, we’ll send a message that our immigration laws are not enforced and the more of you get in here, the greater the chances of getting amnesty. If this law [Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, S2611] is passed, I would say that by the year 2025, we may have another 150 million illegals and we’ll be a nation governed by mob rule."

May 31, 2007 - Jim Gilchrist, MBA, CPA 

Thomas G. Tancredo, US Representative (R-CO), in a June 12, 2007 press release titled "Tancredo Criticizes Bush’s Amnesty Push in Senate," available at, stated:
"The President continues to ignore the will of the American people... He simply cannot accept the fact that Americans are not interested in rewarding illegal aliens with a $2.5 trillion blanket amnesty... It’s time the administration to put an end to this tired old ‘Groundhog Day’ routine and shelve this misguided amnesty plan once and for all... It’s time for them to start enforcing our laws."

June 12, 2007 - Thomas G. Tancredo 

Ron Paul, MD, US Representative (R-TX), in a Sep. 14, 2006 press release titled "Dr. Paul's Writings: Paul Votes for Stronger Border Security," offered the following:
"The problems associated with illegal immigration cannot be addressed unless and until we gain physical control of our borders and coastlines... The number one priority for Congress should be securing our borders - no immigration reform is possible until then. Once we have control over who is entering the country, we can begin to reform the legal immigration process... Amnesty for lawbreakers is not the answer, and it's time to rethink birthright citizenship."

Sep. 14, 2006 - Ron Paul, MD 

Peter Skerry, PhD, Professor in the Department of Political Science at Boston College, in an Aug. 12, 2001 Washington Post article titled "Why Amnesty Is the Wrong Way to Go," stated:
"[A]mnesty is a bad idea both as policy and as politics. Amnesty is being pushed by those who stand to benefit the most from it, chiefly immigrant advocates, unions and the administration of Mexican President Vicente Fox. Democratic leaders in Congress are also enthusiastic about some sort of legalization program. Yet to many illegal aliens, amnesty offers less than meets the eye. And to Americans anxious about the illegal influx into the country, it is more like a poke in the eye."

Aug. 12, 2001 - Peter Skerry, PhD 

John Jacob, Owner of John D. Jacob Land Surveying Services, while being a 2006 U.S. congressional Republican candidate in Utah, in a June 25, 2006 Deseret News article entitled "John Jacob's Responses to News Candidate Questionnaire," stated:
"[Amnesty] is a mass-pardon for lawbreakers and serves as a disadvantage to those who are legally seeking the American dream. We must not reward people who have crossed our borders illegally. In short, amnesty is looking the other way while a crime is being committed."

June 25, 2006 - John Jacob 

The Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR), in a website section titled "Issues" (accessed Mar. 5, 2007), stated:
"An amnesty is a reward to those breaking the law. Giving amnesty to illegal aliens forgives their act of illegally entering the United States and in addition forgives related illegal activities such as driving illegally and working using false documents. An amnesty results in large numbers of foreigners who illegally entered the United States being given legal status as a reward for breaking the law. Amnesties encourage additional illegal immigration into the United States."

Mar. 5, 2007 - Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (CAIR) 

Gary Endelman, JD, PhD, Immigration Counsel at British Petroleum (BP)-Amoco Corporation, in a Siskind Susser Bland, LLC website section titled "Elephant in the Room: Amnesty and the Rule of Law" (accessed Oct. 5, 2007), wrote:
"Amnesty is not a solution to the problem of illegal immigration, but, rather, an abdication of the need to come up with a solution. For precisely this reason, such a bandaid approach will never be accepted as legitimate by opponents, nor will it prevent the need for yet another amnesty in the future. While short-term gains can be achieved by legislative tinkering or imposed by judicial fiat and executive order, only through a slow but painful reform of the fundamental operating assumptions on which our immigration system is based can we ever bring the undocumented in from the shadows to realize the promise of American life in full measure."

Oct. 5, 2007 - Gary Endelman, JD, PhD 

Andy Selepak, writer for Accuracy in Media, in a May 22, 2007 section titled "Public Outrage Over Amnesty Bill," wrote:
"The senators who support this amnesty bill have called it everything but, including 'comprehensive immigration reform,' or an 'immigration compromise bill.' If they spent less time trying to craft code words for amnesty, and more time listening to the people who put them in office, we might have a real bill on illegal immigration that enforced the law without rewarding those who broke the law to enter and work in this country illegally. Instead we get broken campaign promises and senators hiding from constituents."

May 22, 2007 - Andy Selepak 

Humberto Fontova, MA, author, in a May. 30, 2006 section titled "Illegals Love Mexico and Che," wrote:
"The 62 senators who voted 'yea' on last week's immigration bill [Senate Bill S2611] apparently missed all the May Day marches. Either that or these senators were blind to the marchers' symbols and deaf to the their chants. Describing our legislative magnificoes as 'out of touch' misses it. The mainstream media showed us something akin to a Fourth of July picnic by Okies from Muskogee. But bloggers from Babalu to Michelle Malkin didn't let them get away with it. They pulled a quick end run around the mainstream juggernaut and showed us what was really going on. Thus we saw the Mexican tricolor flapping everywhere. Thus we saw Ernesto 'Che' Guevara scowling from countless banners, T-shirts and placards. He appeared as the movement's spiritual leader... Apparently, given all those flags, the marchers looked longingly on the Mexican government. Fine, perhaps ours should emulate it, especially its policies toward immigrants. Amnesty, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate? Instead take a cue from the government represented by that ubiquitous tricolor and indict every one of these marchers as felons."

May. 30, 2006 - Humberto Fontova, MA 

Joe Guzzardi, English Instructor at Lodi Adult School, in a Nov. 10, 2006 article titled "Joe Chides His Republican Immigration Reform Friends and Allies for Having Little Faith," wrote:
"To all my Republican immigration reform friends and colleagues, I have two words for you —'Chill out!' During our movement’s moment of greatest triumph..., we should be basking in our glory at our collective victory. Instead, most of you are wringing your hands and speculating on a worst - case scenario that would include amnesty for illegal aliens and various guest worker programs that will add greatly to the legal immigrant population. But amnesty ain’t happening today, tomorrow or anytime soon."

Nov. 10, 2006 - Joe Guzzardi 

The Constitution Party National Veterans Coalition, in its section titled "Constitution Party National Platform" (accessed Sep. 14, 2007), stated:
"We affirm the integrity of the international borders of the United States and the Constitutional authority and duty of the federal government to guard and to protect those borders, including the regulation of the numbers and of the qualifications of immigrants into the country... We oppose the abuse of the H-1B and L-1 visa provisions of the immigration act which are displacing American workers with foreign. We favor a moratorium on immigration to the United States, except in extreme hardship cases or in other individual special circumstances... We oppose the provision of welfare subsidies and other taxpayer-supported benefits to illegal aliens, and reject the practice of bestowing U.S. citizenship on children born to illegal alien parents while in this country. We oppose any extension of amnesty to illegal aliens. We call for the use of U.S. troops to protect the states against invasion."

Sep. 14, 2007 - Constitution Party National Veterans Coalition 

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in a Jan. 2007 section titled "The Costs of Illegal Immigration to New Jerseyites," stated:
"The proposal to simply convert illegal alien residents to legal resident status with an amnesty violates a fundamental principle of immigration reform, because that will encourage rather than deter future illegal immigration. A policy that conveys the message that the country or any state or local government will tolerate and reward foreigners who ignore our immigration law invites the world to see illegal immigration as an accepted route to seeking a better life in our country and it will exacerbate the problem."

Jan. 2007 - Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) 

Phyllis Schlafly, JD, conservative political activist, public speaker, and author, in a Nov. 9, 2004 Human Events article titled "Get Borders and Illegal Immigration Under Control," wrote:
"No Amnesty. Congress should stiffen its backbone against the Bush Administration plan to grant amnesty to illegal aliens... Millions of foreigners are 'willing' to work for a few dollars a day and Americans are not willing to work for Third World wages. Terminate H-1B visas, since the U.S. has thousands of unemployed American engineers and computer specialists. Since millions of Americans are without health insurance, repeal the federal laws that require local American taxpayers to pay for emergency medical care and schooling for illegal aliens, and enforce the law that forbids states to grant the subsidy of in-state college tuition to illegal aliens."

Nov. 9, 2004 - Phyllis Schlafly, JD 

You Don't Speak For Me, an American-Hispanic advocacy group against immigration amnesty, in a section titled "Our Principles" (accessed Nov. 9, 2007), stated:
"We are standing together to say to the those who come here illegally and those who would give amnesty to those who have broken our laws, you are wrong and you should not be claiming to speak for all American Hispanics."

Nov. 9, 2007 - You Don't Speak For Me 

Michael W. Cutler, Former US Immigration and Naturalization Service Inspector, Examiner, and Special Agent, in a Sep. 1, 2006 transcript of the hearing before the US House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary titled "Is the Reid-Kennedy Bill a Repeat of the Failed Amnesty of 1986?," stated:
"I believe that we're here to explore what S. 2611, the Senate Bill, would do to our country, and I believe personally that it would be catastrophic... A nation's primary responsibility is to provide for the safety and security of its citizens and yet, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, the Members of the Senate who voted for S. 2611 are seemingly oblivious to the lessons that the disastrous amnesty of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, or IRCA, should have taught us."

Sep. 1, 2006 - Michael W. Cutler 

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