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Lamar Smith Press Conference Statement  On Amnesty


October 12, 2000


The President is trying to attach a massive amnesty for 1-2 million illegal aliens to the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill. The Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill funds federal prosecutors, the FBI, federal judges, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the INS, the Counter Terrorism Fund, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Trust Fund, the Violence Against Women Act, the U.S. Parole Commission, and the Civil Rights Division.

The President would cut law enforcement and threaten the safety and lives of the American people. In doing so, he would punish law officers and reward law breakers.

Amnesty increases illegal immigration. The President would violate the trust of the American people to reduce illegal immigration.

We need to just say "NO" to amnesty.

The House Judiciary Committee had to subpoena new INS estimates of the illegal alien population after the INS, despite numerous requests, declined to make the information available to Congress. The reason for INS’ reluctance is now obvious. Illegal immigration skyrocketed after the massive 1986 amnesty for illegal aliens. Since the Administration is seeking another massive amnesty this year, such evidence is embarrassing.

The INS now estimates that the net increase in the number of illegal aliens residing in the United States averaged 457,000 in each of the five years immediately following the amnesty (1987-1991) rising to a peak of 585,000 three years after the amnesty. This five year average is 197% higher than the average net increase of 154,000 in the five succeeding years (1992-1996), after the effects of the amnesty had dissipated.

We should heed the lesson of the 1986 amnesty. Amnesty actually precipitates even more illegal immigration, as individuals come to join their amnestied relatives or are encouraged in the belief that if they can just elude the Border Patrol and stay underground for a few years, they will eventually get amnesty themselves. The 1986 amnesty was a clear failure - we now have 5-7 million illegal aliens residing in the U.S. The Administration’s proposed large-scale amnesty could plunge us into a new immigration crisis.

Amnesty is unfair to the millions of aliens who are waiting outside the country for their turn to come legally to the United States. Amnesty sends the message: "Do not respect our laws. If you come to the U.S. illegally, you will be rewarded." Through amnesty, we are making law-abiding applicants wait longer while giving legal resident status to lawbreakers.

Amnesty also invites fraud. It is extremely easy for aliens to purchase documents that show they have resided in the United States since a given date. The 1986 amnesty program was rife with fraud. One criminal investigation, "Operation Desert Deception," chronicled 22,000 amnesty applications filed just by one arranger, of which 5,500 application were admittedly fraudulent and 4,400 were suspected of being fraudulent.

Amnesty punishes legal immigrants by greatly increasing the time it takes for them to obtain visas for their family members abroad. Once illegal immigrants are given amnesty and lawful permanent residence, they can petition for visas for their family members - increasing by years the backlog of petitions. Largely because of the 1986 amnesty, permanent residents now have to wait 4 to 6 years to obtain visas for their wives and husbands.

Amnesty is bad policy. It rewards law breakers, is unfair to law-abiding legal immigrants, makes a mockery of our laws, and encourages new waves of illegal immigration.

We must say NO to amnesty.