NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Loophole Allows Illegal Immigrants to Gain Legal Status

June 13, 2002

More than one-quarter of all immigrants winning legal residence in the U.S. in the past three years were once here illegally and took advantage of an expired law to gain legal status, charges the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

"You're crowding out people who play by the rules," Dan Stein, FAIR's executive director, argues "and transforming the program into a permanent feature of the immigration system."

  • He says the number of people adjusting their status skyrocketed after Congress passed a law in 1994, known as 245(i), that let them apply for a green card without having to leave the U.S.
  • Since then, almost one million people who entered illegally or overstayed their visas have gained green cards.
  • In 2000, they made up 28.3 percent of new legal residents.
  • There have been several windows for people to apply under 245(i) -- with the most recent one expiring in April 2001.

The applicants still have to wait for their number to come up before obtaining a green card and are subject to deportation until then -- although such expulsions are rare.

In their home country, immigrants are subject to background checks by overseas embassies and consulates. For those in the U.S. already, the checks are performed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service -- an agency Congress has already agreed must be dismantled.

The president and Congress "excoriate the INS for its malfeasance in administering and enforcing our immigration laws but trust the same incompetent agency to run background checks on about 150,000 people a year, about whom all that is known for certain is at some point they broke our laws," according to FAIR's Dan Stein.

Source: Stephen Dinan, "Illegals in U.S. Exploit Loophole," Washington Times, June 13, 2002; "The Truth Behind 245(i) Amnesty: How Illegal Immigrants are Taking Over Our Legal Immigration System," June 12, 2002, Federation for American Immigration Reform.


Browse more articles on Government Issues