What Is Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants?

By Maggie Lourdes
Trucks, the US/Canadian border

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Amnesty means the government forgives a person's crimes. People who violate a nation's immigration laws are considered illegal immigrants. When amnesty is granted to them, they're allowed to remain in the country without fear of arrest or prosecution. The word amnesty is generally a controversial term in politics. Proponents of legally forgiving immigration violations often prefer the term legalization over amnesty.

An Example of Amnesty

A famous example of amnesty for illegal immigrants is the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. The law, signed by President Ronald Reagan, granted illegal immigrants who entered the United States prior to 1982 the right to legally remain in the country. The bill was also intended to reduce future illegal immigration by strengthening border control and penalizing parties who hired illegal immigrants. As of 2014, illegal immigration continues to rise in the U.S. Conservators from Ronald Reagan's Republican Party now generally oppose renewals of sweeping amnesty for illegal immigrants.

About the Author

Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.