E.g., 11/01/2014
E.g., 11/01/2014

Earned Legalization: Effects of Proposed Requirements on Unauthorized Men, Women, and Children

Policy Briefs
January 2011

Earned Legalization: Effects of Proposed Requirements on Unauthorized Men, Women, and Children

This Policy Brief examines four types of criteria for earned legalization (English proficiency, employment, continuous presence, and monetary fines) in the five major legalization bills proposed by Congress since 2006—and finds that the projected effects differ on the ability of unauthorized men, women, and children to gain legal status.

The analysis shows that language requirements, depending on how they are structured, could exclude the largest number of unauthorized immigrants—with between 3.3 million and 5.8 million unauthorized adults unable to pass the English language tests contemplated by two recent bills—and could also be costly. Employment rules would exclude the next-largest share of unauthorized immigrants and would fall especially hard on women; who are less likely than unauthorized men to be in the workforce; followed by continuous presence requirements, which would exclude many children. Fines would not differentially affect unauthorized men and women, as they have similar incomes.

Inevitably, questions about the scope of a legalization program reflect a tension between two conflicting goals: ensuring that such a program is inclusive so that most unauthorized immigrants can adjust their status, and making the rules burdensome enough to avoid unduly rewarding illegal immigration and inviting more in the future.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Legislative Proposals for Earned Legalization

III. Effects of Eligibility Requirements on Men, Women, and Children

A. Effects of Language Requirements

B. Effects of Employment Requirements

C. Effects of a Continuous Presence Requirement

D. Effects of Fees and Fines

IV. Conclusion