The U.S. has had 7 Amnesties, including Reagan’s 1986 bill

Most of us are familiar with the 1986 Amnesty bill signed by President Ronald Reagan but did you know that since then, there have been six additional amnesties passed by Congress?

1986 Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA)

“As enacted, IRCA included a massive amnesty program for two main categories of illegal aliens:

1) those who could show that they had resided illegally in the United States continuously since at least January 1, 1982; and
2) those who had worked as agricultural workers for at least 90 days between May 1, 1985 and May 1, 1986.

As a “balance” to this huge amnesty, IRCA also included several provisions designed to: strengthen the enforcement of immigration laws (including sanctions for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens); increase border controls; and create a program to verify the immigration status of aliens applying for certain welfare benefits.”

1994 Section 245(i) Amnesty 

“This was added to immigration law when Congress passed this de facto amnesty as part of the FY 1995 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill. Section 245(i) went into effect at the beginning of FY 1995 and was scheduled to sunset at the end of FY 1997 (Sep. 30, 1997).

The INS estimates that at the end of FY 1997, Section 245(i) applications had resulted in an increase of 578,000 in the adjustment of status application backlog. “

1997 Section 245(i) Extension Amnesty

President Clinton twice signed continuing resolutions to extend the September 30, 1997 expiration date of Section 245(i). The first continuing resolution extended the deadline until October 23, 1997 and the second continuing resolution extended Section 245(i) until November 7, 1997. Section 245(i) was then further extended until January 14, 1998 by Congress as part of the conference report to H.R. 2267.”

1997 Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) Amnesty

“The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) is an amnesty program for certain Nicaraguans and Cubans, and a de facto amnesty for certain Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Eastern Europeans.”

1998 Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act Amnesty (HRIFA)

“The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA) is an amnesty program for Haitians. It was passed in the aftermath of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), when representatives of a long list of nationalities not included in NACARA claimed that it was discriminatory to refuse them the same special treatment. Haitians are the first group to succeed with this claim. As with NACARA, proponents of HRIFA sought to avoid a full congressional debate of the bill and so added it as an amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 1999 (H.R. 4328), which was passed by both houses of Congress.”

2000 Late Amnesty

“This amnesty was the result of an agreement between the Clinton White House, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. The “late amnesty” allowed all illegal aliens who had been part of lawsuits claiming that they have been illegal aliens since before 1982 and should have received amnesty under the 1986 IRCA amnesty but for various reasons were denied, to renew their request for the amnesty.”

2000 LIFE Act Amnesty

“The LIFE Act of 2000 that was passed in December, 2000 reinstated Section 245(i) for the first four months of 2001 (Jan-April). The House Immigration Subcommittee estimates that 900,000 aliens applied for adjustment of status in the first full year of the reinstatement.”

Do you think Congress will enact another form of amnesty this year? Comment with your thoughts below.

Wayne Dupree

Wayne Dupree is owner and founder of He was named to the 2017 Newsmax’s 50 Most Influential African-American Republicans. He served in the USAF between 1987-1995. He saw time in Operation Desert Storm/Shield and is the father of three. He is the host of the Wayne Dupree Show.

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