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Undocumented Migration to the United States.

This book concerns itself with the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This legislation is purported to represent a major revision of U.S. immigration policy and has as its apparent goal the reduction of illegal immigration. As noted at several points in the book, IRCA seeks to achieve its goal with two basic strategies: (1) the legalizing of immigrants already residing in the U.S. and (2) the reduction of future flows of illegal migrants to the U.S. by imposing penalties on employers in the U.S. who hire illegal aliens. This book of studies attempts to address the issue of whether IRCA has in fact successfully reduced illegal immigration.

This book consists of nine chapters, written by a variety of authors. A variety of data sources are adopted in the analyses, along with a diversity of methodologies. To start the project off, the editors provide a useful and brief "introduction", which serves to set the stage for the remainder of the book. Among other things, this introduction distinguishes between persons who enter the U.S. without any form of legal visa (these people are called "EWIs" since they "enter without inspection") and persons who enter the U.S. with legal visas but stay beyond the authorized time limit (these people are called "visa overstayers").

Chapter one is by the editors as well. Here, the authors examine the more recent pattern of efforts to estimate the magnitude of the U.S. undocumented population. In so doing, they observe that press reports as to the magnitude of the U.S. illegal population have often been exaggerated. They document as well the fact that estimations of the "... size of the illegal population have varied greatly over the past two decades" |p. 16~.

In chapter two, authors Woodrow and Passel investigate the impact of IRCA on the volume of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The authors adopt a residual methodology involving the subtraction of an estimate of the legal population from the Census or CPS estimate of the foreign-born population to get a measure of the magnitude of the undocumented component. They find that IRCA has decreased the undocumented population of the U.S., but they determine that this decrease is due solely to the legalization of formerly illegal residents in the U.S. They detect no compelling evidence that IRCA's employer penalties have induced out-migration of undocumented residents.

In chapter three, Warren provides annual estimations of the volume of people who were visa overstayers in the U.S. He focuses on those persons who were temporarily admitted to the U.S. but who were still in the U.S. more than nine months after the expiration of their visas. Warren examines data for the two years before the passage of IRCA and the two years after the passage of IRCA. Warren's analysis provides data for Mexico and other individual non-Mexican countries.

Four authors, Bean, Espenshade, White, and Dymowski, collaborated to produce chapter four. The authors of this chapter evaluate changes in apprehensions patterns at the U.S.-Mexican border since the passage of IRCA. Their analysis attempts to formally adjust for the impact of economic, demographic and seasonal factors that influence the flow of undocumented migrants and hence the number of apprehensions. They conclude that, to the degree that the apprehensions pattern reflects undocumented immigration to the U.S., IRCA has slowed the flow of undocumented migration across the border, especially male migration.

Chapter five, by Espenshade, is a companion piece to chapter four. Here, the point is made that apprehensions data may overstate the volume of individual persons caught at the border attempting to enter the U.S. illegally because some persons are caught multiple times. With this issue in mind, Espenshade then proceeds to generate an estimate of the reduced number of border crossings (as apposed to apprehensions) resulting from IRCA.

Chapter six is the result of a collaboration among three authors: Massey, Donato, and Liang. Using data from Mexican communities, their preliminary finding is that IRCA did not significantly discourage undocumented migration from Mexico to the U.S. Indeed, they conclude that the cost and difficulty of crossing the border did not increase significantly after 1986.

Chapter seven, written by Bustamante, presents the findings of a data collection project in Mexico at Zapata Canyon. Bustamante concludes that the continued flow of undocumented immigrants from Mexico to the U.S. implies that IRCA is not completely achieving its basic objective of stopping the entry of undocumented immigrants. Bustamante goes on to argue that perhaps IRCA was not enacted to stop the flow of such immigrants. Rather, IRCA may have been designed as a precautionary instrument for times of economic recession in the U.S., when it might be necessary to take more drastic measures to reduce the flow of undocumented migrants to the U.S.

Chapter eight, written by Cornelius, draws upon some 945 interviews conducted in 1988-89 in the traditional labor-exporting states of Jalisco, Michoacan, and Zacatecas. He addresses how IRCA may have affected perceptions of the U.S. labor market, the propensity to migrate from Mexico to the U.S., settlement patterns in the U.S., and the economies of migrant families and their origin (home) communities. Cornelius finds that IRCA has not proven to be as disruptive to the long-established patterns of migration from Mexico to the U.S. as had been anticipated.

The final chapter of the book was written by the editors of this volume. In this chapter, the authors attempt to draw conclusions about IRCA's impact on undocumented migration into the U.S. The authors very appropriately observe that full implementation of the employer penalty provisions of IRCA were delayed by the INS for more than a year after the passage of this legislation. Hence, the full impact of the deterrent effects of IRCA may not yet have emerged. They observe further that several of the studies in the book are based on data collected before or just after the beginning of INS enforcement of employer sanctions. As a result, only very large and immediate effects of IRCA would be likely to be detected. Nevertheless, they conclude that--after considering all of the evidence provided in these papers--there has been a decrease in the flow of illegal migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

This book is well written, competently executed, and relevant. It is a worthwhile endeavor. What we need next is more recent (up-to-date) information.
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Author:Cebula, Richard J.
Publication:Southern Economic Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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