grants has come only in recent decades. The 1986 enactment of IRCA provided a more extensive program of control of illegal immigration. IRCA was designed to reduce illegal immigration through several means: by using employer sanctions to weaken the magnet of work for illegal immigrants, by legalizing formerly illegal immigrant farmworkers and thereby providing a legal labor force for agriculture, and by increasing the resources available for detection and apprehension of those trying to cross illegally into the United States from Mexico. Implementing the amnesty conditions of IRCA has been widely regarded as successful (Gonzalez Baker, 1990); following the 1986 legislative program, the flow of illegal entries appeared to decrease for several years (Passel et al., 1990). The latest estimates are that it has increased since then to about 275,000 per year, on average (Warren, 1996). Employer sanctions have proved difficult to enforce because of the increased use of fraudulent documents and the limited resources of the federal government. At the same time, there has been little success in developing a fraud-proof system that employers could easily use to verify the legal status of job applicants.

Population increases from illegal immigration have continued in recent years. Although many persons actually enter the United States illegally and about 1.5 million persons are apprehended each year as illegal immigrants, these numbers are misleading for policy discussion. First, many of those apprehended are arrested more than once, and INS data thus involve double- or triple-counting of people. Second, and just as important, many persons who enter as illegal immigrants subsequently return to their home country. Greater resources have been allocated to the Border Patrol to prevent the entrance of illegal immigrants.

Before the enactment of IRCA in 1986, it was estimated, 3 to 5 million illegal immigrants lived in the United States. As a result of IRCA's legalization program, more than 3 million persons sought legalization and, at last count, about 2.7 million have become legal residents. The 1986 legalization reduced substantially the size of the illegal immigrant population. But by 1996, the flow of new illegal entrants had brought the number to an estimated 5 million (Warren, 1996).

Illegal immigrants enter the United States by many routes. Although most of the public attention has been on clandestine crossings of the land border with Mexico, they account for about 60 percent of illegal immigrants. The rest enter legally and then overstay their visas. Restricting the growth of the illegal immigrant population, therefore, calls also for programs that address this group of would-be residents.

Immigrant Characteristics


In earlier periods of immigration to the United States, immigrants were predominantly male. Figure 2.9 shows that this sharp gender imbalance did not give

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