Biden’s Amnesty Gamble

Joe Guzzardi
4 min readOct 30, 2020

Immigration, the nation’s most contentious domestic issue, finally got airtime in the final debate between President Trump and challenger Joe Biden. The former Vice President went way out on a limb when he promised immediate amnesty to roughly 11 million unlawfully present foreign nationals.

Biden stuck his neck out further when he said that Americans “owe” citizenship to illegal immigrants: “We owe them, we owe them…” Biden’s verb choice will disappoint the moderate and undecided voters he needs in his White House quest who view amnesty as a reward for knowingly breaking U.S. laws.

Amnesty is the federal government’s pardon for violating immigration policies — using false documentation or committing identity theft to secure Social Security numbers or other official identification cards, obtaining driver’s licenses to gain employment and to stay in the county. The greatest perk amnesty ultimately offers is a path to lawful permanent residency and U.S. citizenship.

Since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, there have been seven individual amnesties for Central Americans, Haitians, Cubans and Eastern Europeans. Additional amnesties are proposed in Congress every year — a far cry from what then-President Ronald Reagan promised would be a “one-time only” amnesty. Until the 1986 legislation which granted legal status to 2.8 million unlawfully present foreign nationals, amnesty had been provided exclusively on a case-by-case basis.

On its face alone, amnesty is immensely unpopular among mainstream Americans. Biden’s promise to send Congress amnesty legislation within the first 100 days of his administration would merely be the starting point for the inevitable labor market saturation and wage suppression that the presence of millions of newly work-authorized foreign nationals will represent. Remember — amnesty translates into work permission. Biden is promising U.S. workers, the unemployed, underemployed, jobless minorities and recent university graduates that he will advocate for more labor competition in an economy devastated by COVID-19.

A deeper dig into Biden’s amnesty proposal uncovers more troubling probabilities. Many more than 11 million illegal immigrants may be present. Eleven million has been the estimated illegal immigrant population for year; the likelihood is that the total is higher. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University research projected an illegal immigrant presence that ranges from 16.5 million to 29.1 million illegal immigrants.

The scholars emphasized that their findings didn’t reflect rising illegal immigration, but rather years of undercounting the alien population. Analysts who study immigration consider the establishment media’s reporting that the illegal immigration count remains unchanged for decades at 11 million a near demographic impossibility given the many border surges, catch and release, and asylum entries. They expect many more to come forward to claim amnesty eligibility. And Biden, like his amnesty-advocating predecessors, never mentioned the long-term population consequences that the inevitable chain migration creates. Excluding the effect that Biden’s amnesty would have, the U.S.’s current legal immigration system that admits 1.5 million foreign nationals annually will create over the next two decades an inflow of between seven and eight million chain migrants.

During his first 100 days, the former vice president also promised to place a moratorium on removals, and to deport only aliens with felony convictions. But since Biden has pledged to restrict Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s interior actions, it is doubtful that the vague background checks that he’s proposed even if carried out would lead to aliens’ removals.

Biden offered Americans zero in exchange for his coveted amnesty. Had he proposed amnesty in exchange for implementing mandatory E-Verify, ending birthright citizenship or limiting chain migration to nuclear family members, Biden might have won over some undecided voters. But as Biden outlined his plan, he offered no benefit to the average voter, but gifted a huge bonanza to the Chamber of Commerce and craven, cheap labor-addicted employer profiteers who will benefit from endless employment-based visa issuance.

Voters should heed President Reagan’s Attorney General Ed Meese’s 1986 amnesty assessment. Meese said that IRCA didn’t solve the illegal immigration problem. The legislation was plagued by “extensive document fraud, and the number of people applying for amnesty far exceeded projections… and after a brief slowdown, illegal immigration returned to high levels and continued unabated, forming the nucleus of today’s large population of illegal aliens.”

Biden’s amnesty gamble in the midst of a tight employment pandemic that has put millions on the unemployment line may backfire. The all-in on immigration platform may cost Biden.

Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at



Joe Guzzardi

Syndicated columnist Joe Guzzardi writes about American baseball history and immigration issues.