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US immigration legislation online


1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, a.k.a. The Simpson-Mazzoli Act (An act to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise and reform the immigration laws, and for other purposes)

S. 1200; Pub.L. 99-603; 100 Stat. 3359.

99th Congress; November 6, 1986.

You can find the full text of this law here or download the PDF.



The Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed and signed into law on November 6, 1986. The purpose of this legislation was to amend, revise, and reform/re-assess the status of unauthorized immigrants set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act. The content of this bill is overwhelming and is divided into many sections such as control of unauthorized immigration, legalization and reform of legal immigration. The focus of this précis will be on the legalization aspect of the bill.

This bill gave unauthorized aliens the opportunity to apply and gain legal status if they met mandated requirements. The fate or status of all those who applied fell into the hands of “Designated Entities” and finally the U.S. Attorney General. Applicants had to prove that they lived and maintained a continuous physical presence in the U.S. since January 1st, 1982, possess a clean criminal record, and provide proof of registration within the Selective Service. Moreover, applicants had to meet minimal knowledge requirements in U.S. history, government and the English language or be pursuing a course of study approved by the Attorney General.

This bill also outlined previsions for temporary residents’ travel, employment, false statements, numerical limitations, adjustments for status and treatment of applications by “Designated Entities”. Furthermore, after an applicant was assigned a legal status or deemed a temporary lawful resident, they were disqualified from receiving all forms of public welfare assistance for five years. The rules for applications and welfare assistance did not apply to Cuban or Haitian immigrants.

(Summary by Kurtis Mees)



’86 Law Looms over Immigration Fight - Contemporary struggles associated with unauthorized immigration and how it relates to IRCA.

The Immigration Debate: Its Impact on Workers, Wages and Employers - Provides links to other websites associated with topics stated above.


Many thanks to Hein Online for document provision, and The University of Washington-Bothell Library, for arranging web hosting. If you have any questions about this site, please contact the course instructor, Sarah Starkweather, at sarah [dot] starkweather [at] gmail [dot] com.