Prospects Dim for Effectively Enforcing Immigration Laws

GGD-81-4: Published: Nov 5, 1980. Publicly Released: Nov 5, 1980.

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GAO made a review to gauge, under current procedures and laws, the Immigration and Naturalization Service's prospects for controlling the illegal alien population of the United States.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has not been able to adequately enforce immigration laws and the prospects for its doing so are dim. It does not have the legal means or sufficient resources to stem the growing number of illegal aliens entering the United States. Most aliens enter the country seeking employment at wages above those available in their own country. Once settled in the interior of the United States, illegal aliens are reasonably safe from deportation. Law enforcement measures necessary to control illegal immigration are not likely to be taken because the costs in terms of strained international relations, restrictions on freedom, and increased resources for law enforcement would be formidable. A select commission has been established to evaluate immigration laws, policies, and procedures and to make such administrative and legislative recommendations as appropriate. Most of the actions the Immigration Service is taking are directed at developing information systems. Even if perfected, these systems will only help to identify some illegal aliens. The costs of tightening border control are formidable, and stopping illegal entry may require more than sealing the Mexican border. The amount of resources devoted to border operations has increased, but not substantially, and will not change significantly for some time. No Federal sanctions exist to use against employers who willingly hire illegal aliens, as they might encourage discriminatory hiring practices and be difficult to enforce. There is opposition to the identification card concept.

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