Immigration Amnesty Pros & Cons

Updated March 23, 2017

Illegal immigration -- and what to do about it -- is one of the biggest hot-button issues in politics. This article examines the pros and cons of an immigration amnesty program.


Illegal immigration ranks as one of the most contentious issues in American politics. Ideas for addressing the issue include a "path to citizenship" with a guest worker program. Critics charge that it amounts to granting amnesty to illegal immigrants -- something that was done in a 1986 immigration bill. Here is an overview of the pros and cons of an amnesty program.

Pro: War on Terror Resources

An amnesty program would allow the government to better focus its resources in the "war on terrorism." Resources that are now focused on capturing illegal immigrants, most of whom enter the country to work, could be redirected toward other homeland security needs such as U.S. ports.

Pro: Economics

Most illegal immigrants fill low-paying agricultural and service sector jobs that most native-born citizens do not want. An amnesty program would allow these workers to continue to contribute to the overall economy.

Pro: Family Unity

Many illegal immigrants have children who, by virtue of their birth, are citizens or legal residents. An amnesty program would keep these families intact.

Con: Unfair

An amnesty program rewards people for breaking the law by entering the country illegally and encourages more illegal immigration. Meanwhile, people who enter the country legally through proper channels are penalised.

Con: Costs

Illegal immigrants impose heavy costs on governments through their use of public services such as education and public health care systems. They also are costly to deport.

Con: Wages

Illegal immigrants take jobs from native-born workers and drive down wages by taking jobs for lower pay.

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About the Author

Shane Hall is a writer and research analyst with more than 20 years of experience. His work has appeared in "Brookings Papers on Education Policy," "Population and Development" and various Texas newspapers. Hall has a Doctor of Philosophy in political economy and is a former college instructor of economics and political science.