-A quick reference aid on U.S. foreign relations
primarily for Government use. Not intended
G IS T as a comprehensive U.S. policy statement.
BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT OF STATE
THE UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS PROGRAM May 1978
1. The problem: Today, as in past years, the US is the single
most favored destination for the world's immigrants. Legal
immigration to the US now averages about 400,000 persons
annually. These immigrants consist mainly of relatives of US
citizens, workers with needed skills, and refugees. In recent
years, however, there has been a heavy flow of illegal immi-
grants from poor nations who are attracted to the US as a place
to live and work. Since numerical limits were imposed on West-
ern Hemisphere immigration in 1968, the problem has grown dra-
matically. There are now several million illegal aliens who have
settled permanently in the US. Allegations of mistreatment and
abuse of undocumented aliens are a continuing irritant between
the US and countries of origin.
2. Countries of origin: Undocumented aliens come from many nations.
Mexico traditionally has been and remains the major country of
origin, but the nationals of other countries in Latin America as
well as Asia are now part of the increased flow. These countries
share several key characteristics. All are developing nations;
all have relatively young and rapidly growing populations; and all
have economies with a large excess labor force.
3. The program: President Carter's undocumented aliens program,
announced in August 1977, is designed to reduce the influx of
illegal aliens and address the problem of what to do about the
aliens already here illegally. It recognizes the close connec-
tion between the domestic and international facets of the problem,
and it is sensitive to the concerns of foreign governments whose
friendship, good will, and cooperation are important to us. The
program will serve to:
regain greater control over our borders;
limit the employment opportunities of illegal immigrants in
the US who compete with US workers for scarce jobs;
register and regulate the undocumented workers already in the
improve cooperation with the countries of origin.
4. Cooperative action: The US cannot solve the problem of illegal
immigration by domestic law enforcement or other unilateral mea-
sures alone. To meet the problem fully, we must find ways to
promote the economic development of the countries of origin to
help them bring population and job opportunities into balance.
To encourage their governments to foster labor-intensive industry
in rural areas, we are funding various programs in the English-
speaking Caribbean countries, largely through the Caribbean De-
velopment Bank. Under the auspices of the World Bank, interested
countries have also formed a Group on Economic Development to help
accelerate the development of participating Caribbean countries.
5. Mexico and the US: We recognize that Mexico's economic problems
are directly related to the outflow of emigrant labor to the US.
Mexico's labor force of 18 million suffers from an unemployment
and underemployment rate of nearly 50 percent. Many Mexicans have
beentespecially concerned that we might deport large numbers of un-
documented workers, causing a massive dislocation of Mexico's
economy. We agree that this could be seriously disruptive and not
in our own best interest, and we have assured the Mexicans that mass
deportations are not part of the President's program. We are also
mindful of the Mexican Government's concern that in the short run
a substantial slowdown in the flow of undocumented workers could
aggravate Mexico's economic and social problems.
The US is working closely with Mexico on these issues. In July
1977, a high-level US delegation visited Mexico to outline the
main features of the Administration program. Last January Vice
President Mondale discussed the problem with Mexican President
Lopez Portillo, and it was also discussed during Secretary Vance's
trip to Mexico in May. We have established Social and Economic
Working Groups with Mexico to continue this dialogue. It is hoped
that economic growth in Mexico, stimulated by recent discoveries
of oil and gas, will ease the pressures impelling Mexicans to immi-
grate illegally to the US. Both the World Bank and the Inter-
American Development Bank have assured us that they will expand
their efforts to match Mexico's commitment to address the problems
of rural development and unemployment.
6. Visa functions: The State Department is strengthening its visa
issuance function to minimize visa fraud and curb this source of
illegal immigration. We are improving the screening of applicants
and the security of visas issued. We are also working to improve
the efficiency of our overseas consulates, which issue visas to